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Austin Wintory bringing music’s ‘superpower’ to video games

Composer Austin Wintory began his music journey early and has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

Wintory began composing when he was 10. Since then, he’s provided scores for a variety of projects from films to video games.

“Music can communicate something that all the other ingredients are avoiding,” Wintory said. “It fills in the edges and cracks and subtext of a narrative in ways that music is uniquely empowered to do. Music has a special sort of superpower.”

Wintory has brought that superpower to the gaming industry.

“My excitement in games are the ones that don’t feel like a film where I’m creating a toolkit to allow the player to be a co-author of the music for their experience,” Wintory said.

Wintory’s scores have accompanied games like “Journey,” “Assassins Creed Syndicate,” “John Wick Hex,” and the recently released “The Pathless.”

“The Pathless” presented some unique challenges for Wintory. The game is an open-world adventure set in a vast forest. The game features multiple plateaus with each plateau featuring multiple bosses.

As players work to unravel the mystery of the world they are dropped into, the music mirrors a player’s journey within the game.

“The big picture is defeating each one of these bosses constitutes a trial for this character,” Wintory said. “I wanted to feel like having done it once was a big milestone for her in her hero’s journey. Doing it again is yet another milestone and a third time, now she’s accomplished something. Every time you beat one of these bosses, the music should gain this sense of heroism and confidence.”

But what made the game a challenge for Wintory was its open world nature. Players are able to tackle the bosses in any order they wish and travel to different parts of the island whenever they want. Keeping track of story progress, location and more led to a score that reflects a player’s unique journey compared to others.

“The location is one variable,” Wintory said. “Where I am in the story is another variable and localized systems are yet another variable and all of that adds up to hopefully feels like whatever you did, the music told your story.”

Wintory’s work on “The Pathless” has earned him recognition, including nominations for multiple awards at the Game Audio Network Guild Awards and wins for Score of the Year: traditional/acoustic and Audio of the Year: in-game music at the Annual Game Music Awards. But don’t expect to hear the same score twice on different games. Wintory is always ready for a new challenge.

“I’m always trying to write something that I haven’t really written before,” Wintory said. “Sitting down and just writing music randomly is not hard. I just won’t like it. It will feel like fundamentally I’ve done this before or, worse yet, someone else has already done this and I’m just kind of emulating or shamelessly knocking off someone else’s work and I don’t want to do that. But I don’t even want to be knocking off my own work. My goal is to always push myself somewhere new.”

Contact Lukas Eggen at leggen@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Follow @lukaseggen on Twitter.

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