Interview with Chase Bethea, Video Game Composer, United States

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Chase Bethea

Chase is one of the most talented video composers in the world, creating music that perfectly suits the game genre and art involved.

Interview with the 2021 NYX Game Awards Winner - Chase Bethea

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

My name is Chase Bethea. I am a Video Game Composer/Creative & Technical Audio Designer that has shipped over 20 titles in my ten years experiences. I was born and raised in Chicago. I started composing music when I was in the 5th grade. I was in the advanced band choir from 5th - 7th grade.

During my saxophone practice at home, I started composing melodies out of boredom from the music pieces I was learning. In 2006, 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. My soundtrack for “Cubic Climber” earned a Noteworthy on Destructoid. In 2016, I was nominated for Artists of the Year – Independent Composer by VGMO in the entire industry for my “I Can’t Escape:Darkness” score.

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

I knew a year before graduating that I wanted to attend the Los Angeles Recording School to hone my audio production skills. So, I enrolled in that school the same year I graduated High School. (2006 - 2007). If I only had a more optimistic mind and I regret this still, I would have listened to the people who told me my music sounds like video game music and would have pursued it then.

I realized in 2008 that I wanted to work in the video game industry. The hint had always been thrown at me subtlety but it never clicked until I was working at an Internet Media Company called Music Plus Television or 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. Then, I realized I CAN do this. 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 is to make the ear candy for the player in addition to adding to the art form of the project. Since audio is 50% of the experience, I strive to enhance the project without it being intrusive to the other art elements. I think some good traits to be successful are to stay humble, be vigilant in learning, try not to take things personally, be proactive, avoid laziness, and embrace challenges.

4Tell us more about your studio / company.

I have been working as a freelancer since 2009 and have shipped over 21 titles across multiple gaming platforms. Some titles include I Can’t Escape Darkness, Super Happy Fun Block, Aground, and Potions Please. In addition, I worked on the pre-production for Virtual Reality Company who released Jurassic World VR Expedition. My soundtrack for “Cubic Climber” earned a Noteworthy on In 2016, Chase was nominated for Artists of the Year – Independent Composer by VGMO in the entire industry. With an extensive library of diverse music, I continue to push against the status quo with a fusion of texture and complexity to elevate the experience of the gamer. As an avid video game player myself, I have always think about the final product and how to distinguish a game through composition.

5What is your own definition of a great game?

I believe a great game to be something that when you play it for fifteen minutes it sucks you in gradually. You lose track of time. In addition, once you turn that game off and walk away, you’re thinking of that game as if you had a major crush on it. When you’re washing dishes, working on something else, or at a social event. Sporadic moments make you penchant to play that game again right there! You become enamored and once you finish the game you can’t praise it enough. It’s like being in love. 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.

My specialty is knowing how to approach the music for a project once I either read the game design document, see art concepts/screenshots or play the build/vertical slice. Once I can tell what the project is about, I have the ability to hear and conceptualize small thematic motifs in my head. It's like a psychic ability to listen to what the game project is telling me it wants to sound like. I have scored adventure games, puzzle games, battle/strategy games, rhythm games, metroidvania games, FPS stealth/combat games, survival/crafting games & visual novel games.

7Tell us about your ideation process.

There are two things I base my process on. One is 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. I’m building longevity not one shots.

The second is a quote from 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 out there. I want to hear some really obscure and genre infused style game music but I know that it will have to be me, for now, that writes it. I’m happy with this.

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 lot to me! It is the first time I have won an award in the entire industry. I have been nominated before and I submitted to several award organizations this past year. 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, it feels great and heart-warming to be recognized in this space for my work on an international level. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners! Thank you Fancy Fish Games for believing in me as a composer and pulling me into the beginning of production to make the best soundtrack I could for Aground! Thank you NYX! Winning this award is a huge milestone achievement!

9How has winning an international award help promote your company and game?

I am not too sure how it has helped yet but my hope is that once people hear the announcement and learn more about me and my work, that I can compose the score for bigger and better game projects soon!

10What are the challenges of developing / marketing your winning entry(ies)?

Mostly just filling in the slots for descriptions & getting keys for review. It’s a lot of creating good sentences and pulling together the resources.

11How has the country, you are based in, helped during your ideation process?

I’m not too sure. I suppose the flexibility of being freelance and being able to work remote with solid internet connection.

12What are the current trends in the game industry that you are most excited about?

I am excited for proper inclusion and diversity practices. I am seeing more proper opportunities occurring for all cultures/backgrounds and more to be able to work in the industry. I am also excited to see fully remote or hybrid remote workflows be implemented by game studios including AAA.

13What are the top THREE (3) favorite things about the gaming industry?

We are always growing and pioneering new technology to be used mostly for fun entertainment. The ongoing creativity and passion that instantly ignites inspiration in others. Every now and then an underdog gets acknowledged. Whether it’s a comeback in sales and popularity from 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?

IGDA! They have resources galore! They also have mentors. I would recommend Game Dev School and Game Dev Unchained Podcast. The podcast has guests of all game design disciplines that discuss their journey and workflow from a myriad of game studios. You’re hearing inside stories and some techniques used to get the work done on games you may have played and/ or loved. I would also recommend Game Makers Notebook. Here is where they seem to invite/ interview popular game industry professionals about their journey.

15Where do you see the evolution of the gaming industry in the next 5-10 years?

The evolution I see is more intimate and raw storytelling from different backgrounds in games told specifically by those people in development. I see the fast adoption and acceptance of a hybrid remote workflow for big and small game development studios. I also sense AI tools properly enhancing multiple game development discipline work in marketing , programming and audio.

16Who inspired you in your life, and why?

My Mum inspired me. My Mum raised me to think differently, to watch, listen and learn. To learn from her mistakes. Her worth 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 through her 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?

Keep doing your own thing and create 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 NYX for diversifying the award winners. This is the standard that I would like to see in other award organizations adopt that recognize the balance from small indie games to large AAA. Too many times AAA 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. There needs to be better balance. I wish to see that in other award organizations next year and follow the lead of NYX Awards.

Winning Entries

Aground Original Game Soundtrack Deluxe Edition Soundtrack | 2020

Aground Original Game Soundtrack Deluxe Edition Soundtrack | NYX Game Awards

With Aground, we wanted to try something a little different with the survival genre - we wanted a game that wasn’t an open world, but...
(read more at NYX Game Awards)

Chase Bethea

Chase is one of the most talented video composers in the world, creating music that perfectly suits the game genre and art involved.