Journey's Composer Finds a Game's Soul Through His Music
ByDate: 12-09-2012 Views:
On the day the 55th annual Grammy awards revealed its list of nominees, Journey composer Austin Wintory decided it'd be less stressful to just head home than wait at the studio for an official website to refresh and tell him whether he'd been nominated. Just after he got in the car, his phone blinked; it was a congratulatory email from Christopher Tin.
Tin enjoys the distinction of first composer to win a Grammy for a video game song ("Baba Yetu," the Civilization IV theme, won Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist at the 53rd Grammys). A bewildered Wintory quickly phoned Tin -- and fittingly, learned from him that his score for Thatgamecompany's Journey was nominated in the Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media category.
"When he won that Grammy two years ago, it was the first time ... the game itself wasn't being acknowledged, it was the piece he had extracted from the game," says Wintory. "So it was really wonderful that of all the people, by chance the trailblazer would be the one to call me... how perfect."
This nomination puts a video game score in consideration alongside the soundtrack for films like The Artist, The Dark Knight Rises and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a momentous statement by any measure. But for Wintory, an ineffably humble and chatty man with an endless reserve of what feels like awe at the role he's gotten to play in Journey's overwhelmingly positive reception, it seems like icing on the cake.
We spoke just ahead of the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards, for which Journey leads nominations with seven -- including one for Best Score and one for Best Song. Amid all this acclaim, Wintory seems equally pleased to recall the early feedback he'd begun getting from press, other developers and colleagues in the audio community at the Game Developers Conference earlier this year. "That stuff, it feels like you're with your people," he says.
"I do think it's awesome there's a mainstream pop culture outlet for video games," says Wintory of the VGAs, which he'll attend with colleagues Robin Hunicke and Kellee Santiago. Despite the mixed opinion some fans have about a heavily-sponsored, Hollywood-style event acting as games' most visible award show, "I'm always happy about anything if I'm with people I care about, so it doesn't really matter what the context is."
For Wintory, the reception for Journey has exceeded his wildest hopes, and surprised him, too. "We'd been living in kind of a vacuum, making it," he recalls. "I felt very strongly about the game, out of my own reverence for TGC... but as much as I genuinely loved it, I had actually no idea if anyone was going to respond to it."
But since the game's release, Wintory has received "hundreds and hundreds" of emails, any one of which would have been "life-changing," he says. "I'd never in a million years... I mean, of course you hope, but to reasonably expect that something you work on would actually impact somebody in that way! The response has been so beyond what would have been my wildest hopes, dreams and expectations for it."