Video Games’ First-Ever Grammy Winner Talks About ‘Civilization’ and Music

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Do you play many video games? If so, have you noticed any trends in how musical composition happens for games? What do you think is impressive? What do you wish were better?

I don’t play all that many games, outside of the ones I compose for. When I do, they tend to be more casual games—Wii games, Rock Band, etc. I think by now, it’s well established that video games have the technical resources to match the sound quality of big-budget Hollywood films, and I see a lot of my colleagues taking full advantage of that. And I hope that over time, the types of games that we see in the marketplace allow for a much wider palette of genres and styles of music. I think part of the reason that ‘Baba Yetu’ was a breakout success in game music was the fact that it sounds unlike a lot of the game music out there, with its world-music influence. But other than Civilization, it wasn’t a song that could be written for a lot of other games. My hope is that more games come out with different premises that allow for more unusual types of music to be written.

What are your favorite pieces of video game music? What do you think of games like Limbo, that only use sound design but very little actual recorded music?

I’d say that my favorite game soundtrack by far is for the Katamari Damacy series. I’m a huge fan of what those Namco guys did for those games, as well as all the popular Japanese rock and pop artists who participated in those soundtracks. When I first heard those soundtracks, it blew open the doors for me—I suddenly discovered J-Pop and the whole Japanese music industry, and it was mind-blowing.

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As far as stuff like Limbo, I think that games that don’t use music, but only use sound design, are great as well, though. I think there’s a lot of creative use of sound out there, and it’s great when a game exploits it.

With Civilization World launching on Facebook and “Baba Yetu” accompanying it there, thousands of new ears will be hearing your music for the first time. Where should people go if they want learn more about your music?

Not only will Civ World feature “Baba Yetu,” but it will feature my entire album ‘Calling All Dawns’! If you want to purchase or learn more, you can go to my website, You can also find out more about my next album, a collaborative project called Stereo Alchemy—ten ‘decadent electronica’ songs with lyrics based on poems by Victorian poets (like Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti and others).

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