When this world is no more,
the moon is all we’ll see
I’ll ask you to fly away with me,
until the stars all fall down,
they empty from the sky
But I don’t mind,
if you’re with me, everything’s alright
Music has its own significance in games. It isn’t projected right at your eyes like graphics on the monitor, nor can it be visually observed like in-game systems or level design. However, it’s always there. It always tickles our ears even when we don’t realize it. It helps a player to concentrate more on the game’s world by transforming depending on what sort of mood or setting the game requires.
The person we would like to introduce today is someone who has made many gamers laugh and cry through the power of music. She composed and sang “Everything's Alright”, one of the masterpiece songs from To The Moon, and directed the soundtrack of Plants vs Zombies.
She says music is something that reinforces the bond between the game and the player even after the game is over. Her name is Laura Shigihara, and through our interview with her, we had the chance to hear her story and learn about her relationship with music.
Inven: Hello! Would you like to introduce yourself briefly please?
Laura Shigihara (Laura): Hello. I’m Laura Shigihara, a video game developer, composer, and singer/songwriter. I made the soundtrack of Plants vs Zombie and developed the game called Rakuen. Also, I made about 30 sound sources for games such as World of Warcraft (WoW), To The Moon, Finding Paradise, and Super Meat Boy.
I sang the ending theme of the Minecraft documentary myself and participated in creating the official album of the Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross 20th anniversary. Hobbies are climbing and playing games with friends at a cafe.
▲ Finding Paradise - Wish My Life Away by Laura Shigihara
Inven: You are well known for being professional with classical music, what was your reason for doing game music? Was there any game or music from your life that inspired you?
Laura: When I was little, I loved video game music as much as I loved video games. In the early era of video games, many composers had to deal with technical limitations. Even so, they made music that is extremely catchy and memorable; music that you never get tired of even in a loop. I just fell for this distinct appeal of video game music. In fact, I often turned on some
Megaman music at home when I was doing homework.
Then I soon realized that there wasn’t a lot of lyrical game music. I absolutely love games with great stories like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6, and I
felt a natural connection that drew me to writing music that would fit the story and emotion of the game.
Inven: What significance and role do you think music has in games?
Laura: I believe that music serves a crucial role in shaping players’ emotions when they play. It is fundamental in helping players have all kinds of feelings, from happiness all the way to sadness. It also remains in the player’s heart even after they finish a game, and that keeps them emotionally connected to the game.
Inven: What is the main difference between game music and other music?
Laura: You always need to have the gameplay in mind when you compose game music. When I compose a song, I always have the game on in the background, because I need to constantly check if the gameplay and the music match each other. If the music is too strong, players may feel confused at some stages. On the other hand, if a song lacks an emotional kick, the cutscene with that song may not have any feeling behind it. As you can see, good game music cannot be made without a thorough understanding of how the game works and flows.
▲ Why I love video game music - Laura Shigihara
Inven: What do you care about most when you compose?
Laura: I’m always trying my best to make players feel an array of emotion that mixes with the gameplay and story. I imagine the overall atmosphere of the game, and try to understand the player’s emotions as much as possible. I believe that I can connect with them through music.
Inven: Not only do you do composition, but your vocal work is also very clear and attractive. Have you ever thought of becoming a singer?
Laura: Thank you! Actually, I was offered an opportunity to make an album as a singer in Japan before I became a game music composer. But, I had to finish college first, and there were a couple of personal matters as well, so I had to refuse the offer.
Inven: Do you have a favorite song or music piece?
Laura: My most favorite music piece is something I composed in Rakuen called “Build a Little World With Me”. It appears in the most important scene in the game, and I was thinking of my best friend when I was writing the lyrics, so it’s very special to me.
Inven: You started to become popular when you became the sound director of Plants vs Zombies. You then did the Singing Sunflower pet voice in World of Warcraft. There must have been a lot of change and a bunch of business proposals from fans of your work.
Laura: After finishing the project you mentioned, I was then able to participate in a wide variety of game music projects. I was called by EA to be put in charge of the audio directing and sang the ending theme of the Minecraft documentary.
Inven: “Everything’s Alright” from To The Moon is my personal favorite. What emotion and details did you try to implement in that song?
Laura: I wanted to deliver a story about a relationship between two people who face a situation where they can’t communicate with each other and eventually build an emotional wall. They desperately want to break the wall and interact with each other, without really knowing how to do so. I wanted to have this sweet, bitter, and dim emotion in the lyrics, and I wanted to deliver it to many people.
Inven: Rakuen, the game you have participated in making since last year, has been released. Please tell us about what kind of game it is.
Laura: Rakuen is an adventure game about a little boy living in a hospital. One day, the boy who is also the protagonist asks his mom to bring him to a fantasy world, so that he can get a wish from the forest guardian from his favorite storybook. In order to make that wish true, he ventures into the fantasy world and encounters a number of trials. In those trials, he needs to help some of the other patients.
Inven: The game’s become quite popular globally. How do you feel?
Laura: Truly thankful. I didn’t expect it to be this popular since the game deals with quite a serious topic. I would’ve been really happy even if only a few people played this game and were positively influenced by it.
As a matter of fact, I received many messages from those who played Rakuen. One said that he was able to overcome a difficult time in his life thanks to the game, and another said that he was able to say “thank you” to his mom, although that’s nothing unusual. I was so pleased and happy for these stories.
Inven: Is there any difference you found between working on only the music versus being a part of the whole development process?
Laura: It makes you more free and excited when you make your own game because you can express your vision purely without any restrictions. I learned how to understand the story with my heart while making it, and it helped me to create music that better suited the game.
Inven: What are your upcoming plans?
Laura: I’ll release an album, and keep singing for you guys! Also, although it’s still a prototype, we are preparing another new game.