Dragon Age Lures Gamers with the Lyre: Music Strategy in Video Games 590 words · 3 minute read

What better way to relax after dragon-slaying than listening to some tunes at your local tavern?

Critically acclaimed video game Dragon Age: Inquisition recently released ten songs from the game for players to download for free during a limited time offer, supplementing the already highly received 39 track original soundtrack.

Performed by singer-songwriter Elizaveta Khripounova and Nick Stoubis, these tracks lured so many players to the game’s fictional tavern, they began requesting en-masse for the songs. Dragon Age reacted with the free promotion, which ran until February 9. The game also provided sheet music for the ten songs.

“Music had always played a strong role in the franchise,” according to Michael Kent, Audio Director of the game’s developer, BioWare. In an October 2014 interview with EA Games, Kent explained that they had begun planning Inquisition’s musical direction earlier than they’d ever started before on a game.

“The goal was to inform the player of the impact and worth of their actions through aural feedback when interacting with the world,” said Kent in that interview. “By making the world believable and captivating through audio, this will help completely immerse the player as they explore the Dragon Age world.”

Sonic identity in video games is an important component of branding that can strengthen a gaming community, especially for role playing games like Dragon Age. In RPGs, the immersion of the gamer relies on the believability of the fictional world and on the authenticity of the experience. Music can help build this engagement.

Violinist Lindsey Stirling produced an official cover of the games theme, garnering over 9 million views since uploading. “Audio is 50% of the experience when playing a video game,” continued Kent. “Audio provides emotion, and also helps tell the story. Audio is what immerses the player in the game.” Music supervision in video games is being applied more tactfully as opportunities for creative music strategy expand. Just as in television or film, music in video games can serve as background music to build the tone of the scene or setting. More often than ever, though, players are hearing source or diegetic music from the fictional setting of the game: sounds that they can engage with and that influence the gameplay. Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs is an example of this, as players interact with the game’s setting through an in-game music discovery app called “Song Sneak.” Players use their character’s mobile device to “steal” music from a passersby, and the more songs one takes, the more music one can listen to while playing:

Music Dealers licensed twelve songs from eleven of its independent artists for Watch Dogs, heightening the music discovery component of the game’s “Song Sneak” app with real music from genuine emerging artists.

In a similar fashion, Dragon Age: Inquisition leverages music as both background and interactive source to increase gamer engagement. Sung by an in-game bard, the “Tavern Songs” herald the deeds of the player and contribute to the culture of the fictional setting. “Basically we want to drive whatever emotion we are trying to deliver as a game as a whole. Whether it’s happy, sad, powerful, or spooky, we need to support these with audio,” said Kent.

The “Tavern Songs” of Dragon Age: Inquisition were composed by American composer and songwriter Raney Shockne, who was also the composer of television series Anger Management and the music producer on The Back-up Plan, among others. One track from the ten-song album, “I Am The One,” was composed by the game’s former soundtrack composer, Inon Zur.

By: Zach Miller, Music Dealers