Interview with Chase Bethea from United States

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Chase Bethea

Chase Bethea is a Video Game Composer/Technical Music Designer with an experience of over a decade in the gaming industry with over 20 games with his touch!

Interview With The 2023 NYX Game Awards Winner –
Chase Bethea

1Please provide us with a brief bio of yourself and your background.

My name is Chase Bethea and I am a Video Game Composer/Technical Music Designer known in the industry as the "swiss army knife of video game composition." I have worked in the industry for over a decade and have shipped over 20 games thus far. I have composed a diverse collection of music that can be described as a fusion of texture and complexity which allows the player to become immersed in the experience.

I have been a guest speaker at many conferences such as 2022 Global Game Jam (Keynote Speaker), GDC (Game Developers Conference (3x), PAX, Audiokinetic, MAGWEST (2x), IGDA, GameSound Con (2x), Berklee College of Music (2x), Game Devs of Color (2x), ADC (Audio Developers Conference), A2IM, Indie Game Business and EPOS Gaming.

I was born and raised in Chicago. I started composing music when I was in the 5th grade. I was in the advanced band and choir from 5th - 7th grade. I attended The Los Angeles Recording School for my AA in Audio Engineering, Moorpark College for my AA in Music Theory and Composition and California State Northridge for my BM in Media Composition. I graduated with honors from all the universities I attended.

2What led you to become a Game Developer / Marketer?

I realized in 2008 that I wanted to work in the video game industry. After I was told by many people "that my music sounds like it should be in a video game." It clicked with me, when I was working at an Internet Media Company called Music Plus Television / Vlaze.

I had composed some orchestral music for a video clip and my friend Jason, who worked as the main IT Tech, told me that it sounded similar to Castle Crashers. From there I researched the game and compared the music. I thought it was unobtainable to write music for games. I always thought it had to be licensed by a label. I did not know I could shop it directly to the source and I did not know that indie game studios existed to accept music from anyone that submitted. From there, I began to pursue my career in video games.

3What is your role in the company, and what traits should a game developer / marketing professional possess to be successful in their role?

My role in the company is the composer. This means as a game developer I harbor 50% of the player responsibility to keep them immersed and enjoy the game. I construct the aural ear candy for the player in addition to adding to the art form of the project.

I think some good traits to be successful are to be and stay humble, pace yourself, apply the knowledge you have, try not to take things personally, be proactive, avoid laziness, embrace challenges and celebrate your wins no matter how small they are.

4Tell us more about your studio / company.

I’ve been a freelancer since 2009. My company focuses on writing the best music for games that go beyond helping tell the story but also fit the game play mechanics to submerge the player into the game further. I seek developers who are serious about having music elevate their game with dynamic systems and unique sonic identity.

As a video game composer, I have brought my special signature sound to big libraries and have worked with written demos for Spitfire, Reason Studios and Soundiron, curated selections for Native Instruments, been added to the artist roster of the legendary, ILIO and Q Up Arts.

5What is your own definition of a great game?

I believe a great game is something you can’t stop thinking about if you put it down for fifteen minutes. Whether you played for a small amount of time, a long amount of time or when you completed it. It sticks with you. You become enamored. In addition, if you’re playing for about ten minutes, it gradually sticks with you.

Random penchant moments occur to play that game again right there! You can’t praise it enough. It’s like being in love because you actually are. It gave you all the right challenges that did not make you rage quit. It gave you a feeling of accomplishment. You tell everybody about it because it did what the game should do; give you the feeling of fun and beyond that an emotional/sensational experience.

6Describe the genres of the game(s) your studio / company specializes in, as well as its main characteristics.
I am known as the “Swiss Army Knife of Video Game composition”. This is a title that was given to me by the hosts of the video game music podcast, Pixelated Audio and other peers/colleagues have acknowledged my variety of musical prowess as well. I do not specialize in just one. I am the “Jack of All Trades, Master of Some”. The main characteristic is ensuring the game that I am scoring has a sonic identity.
7Tell us more about your ideation process.

There are two things I base my process on. The first is from the TV show Mad Men. In the show, Don Draper says, “ If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” I turned into, “If you don’t like what’s being heard, write something different.” I know my sound is very niche and unlike any other game music. I want to hear some really obscure game music that conflates multiple genres in a cohesive manner. So, that is the game music I write as long as it fits the game.

The second is a quote from an interview with Alfred Hitchcock where the audience challenged him by saying they knew what was going to happen next in his film and he responded, “Do you?” Listener expectation should be subverted to a certain extent. I don’t want them to be thrown off immediately but gradually. I want them to listen multiple times to catch the layers of what I’m doing intentionally. I’m building aural candy with longevity.

8Congratulations! As the winner of the NYX Game Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?

Thank you! Honestly, this means a great deal! It is the second time I have won an award in the entire industry. When I was writing music for this game, I went from having a strong muse to losing it in the span of six months. It took a major toll on my mental health and my heart.

My goal when I started the project was to have fun writing the style, pay homage to the style, make the style modern and design it to fit the game. To be the winner of this validates the excitement one can have and yet and the unfortunate turmoil that can be alchemized into composing music.

The competition is very steep especially when you are constantly competing against seasoned and talented triple AAA companies as well as Indie Colleagues. For someone like me, I am verklempt to be recognized in this space for my work on an international level.

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners! Thank you SpriteWrench for entrusting in my talents, collaboration and pulling me into the beginning of production to score the best soundtrack I could for On the Peril of Parrots! Thank you NYX Game Awards! Winning this award is another huge milestone achievement!

9How has winning an international award help promote your company and game?
Winning an international award has helped by getting my brand in front of more people so that they can see the kind of work I do and how I do it in a semi-unconventional but effective way.
10What are the challenges of developing / marketing your winning entry(ies)?
The challenge of developing the winning entry is ensuring the assets are available at the time of the submission. Mostly filling in the sections for descriptions & requesting keys for review. It’s a lot of work structuring good sentences, pulling together the resources with proper image size dimensions and video aspect ratios. In addition to editing the video(s) and posting them.
11How has the country, you are based in, helped during your ideation process?
Reflecting back to when I answered the first time, I am still not too sure. I suppose the flexibility of being freelance and still being able to work remotely.
12What are the current trends in the game industry that you are most excited about?
I am excited to see more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion groups campaign for themselves and strengthen cross promotion with each other.
13What are the top THREE (3) favorite things about the gaming industry?
  1. I am grateful that the industry is so big that there are pockets to find small amounts of joy and inspiration.
  2. I love that there are groups that thoroughly and consistently support one another in game development. Their actions speak louder than words and they reciprocate.
  3. I am still grateful that every now and then an underdog gets acknowledged. Whether it’s a comeback in sales and popularity from a game that “failed” at launch, a game that is a hidden gem that people notice and love at the right time or a game that had a low chance of winning an award actually wins.
    14What resources would you recommend to someone who is searching to improve their game designs and development ideas / skills?
    I would recommend the IGDA. They also have mentorships and some workshops, Special Interests Groups that can support development ideas. I would also recommend HomeTeam Game Dev. It is a wonderful place to improve game design and development ideas.
    15Where do you see the evolution of the gaming industry in the next 5-10 years?

    I hope to see an evolution in staple indie game studios, (the very few that have been around the past eight years) transitioning into bigger game studios that rival Ubisoft, EA, Activision/Blizzard. I sense that the mindsets will break out of recycling nostalgia and funding becomes more abundant.

    Something in the industry is telling me right now that people are still thinking of “playing it safe”. The industry will break away from that mode and finally feel confident to depart from pixel platformers, Metroidvanias and MMORPGs.

    16Who inspired you in your life, and why?

    The answer is still my mum who inspired me. My mum raised me to think differently, to watch, listen and learn. To learn from her mistakes. Her work ethic is unparalleled from being full time creative herself and working multiple day jobs.

    Setting the standards of manners, strong mindsets of will power and the belief of belonging. It is because of her that I learned how I established my signature sound 20 years ago, how to carry myself professionally and how I navigate the industry.

    17What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
    I believe that the key to success is still to keep doing your own thing and create your own opportunities consistently and a lane for yourself if there is not one that fits for you. Try your best not to compare yourself to others because you may become bitter. However, If you compare yourself to yourself, you could possibly become better.
    18Do you have anything else, which we haven’t covered, that you would like to include in this interview?

    I want to say thank you again to NYX for continuing to diversify the award winners. This is the standard that I would like to see other award organizations adopt that recognize the balance from small indie games to large AAA. From my perception too many times for too many years, AAA game studios sweep in multiple categories and leave little to no pie for others.

    It’s unfair and discouraging when the call for submissions open, indies are allowed to submit and when the winners are announced, the award goes to the AAA companies in multiple categories. Some other indie game companies could have had a chance for recognition in those categories. It’s starting to get better but there is still more consistent work to do.

    Winning Entry

    On the Peril of Parrots Original Soundtrack | 2023

    On the Peril of Parrots is a puzzle game where you take control of P.O.L.L.I - the Procedural Operating Layered Linguistic Intelligence - and put your skills …
    (Read more at NYX Game Awards)

    Chase Bethea

    Chase Bethea is a Video Game Composer/Technical Music Designer with an experience of over a decade in the gaming industry with over 20 games with his touch!

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