Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Annina Melissa, Music Designer & Composer for Games. Annina speaks about transitioning from a gaming-centric upbringing to translating games, leading her to discover a passion for creating music for the gaming industry. She emphasizes the collaborative nature of game music, discusses challenges in non-linear composition, and advises aspiring game composers to prioritize collaboration over ego. Read more about Annina in this interview:
Hi Annina! Your career spans across both the music and gaming industries. Could you share a pivotal moment in your journey where you realized your passion for merging music with gaming, and how did that influence your career path?

I grew up in a big family and we had a lot of different consoles, so I’ve always loved playing games. Even when I was a child I paid special attention to game music and would replay certain chapters if it contained a piece I loved. 
Fast forward, I came back from a bigger tour and needed a job to bridge the gap until the next tour. I found work translating games and from then on I thought ‘I could do music for games’. So I learnt as much as I could and worked in different studios, which exposed me to a variety of methods and workflows. Game tech develops so quickly, and every project is different, so the learning never really stops. 
Whereas I’m full-time employed at a studio, I still write music in my spare time too. One of my songs is actually playing in the finale of the new season of BBC’s Silent Witness.

Your music is described as a blend of ambient, electronic, and orchestral elements with haunting vocals. Can you tell us about the creative process behind composing music that complements the gaming experience, and how your unique style contributes to the gaming world?

The music I contribute to games is quite different than the music I write for my solo work or for my other projects. 
For my solo work I can write whatever I want – there are no limitations. It’s an inherently selfish endeavour, because the only aim is to process something musically that I went through. It’s a very introspective, intimate endeavour, where no one else’s opinion matters.
Writing for games is the exact opposite. Not only is the purpose of the music different (to enhance the gaming experience, perhaps underscore a narrative, reinforce certain emotions/events), the process is also highly collaborative. Whereas I present ideas, a project or game director usually signs those off, and if they don’t like something, I’ll have to be able to adapt. I sometimes talk to people, who think that’s a negative, but I actually love that about making games. It’s a highly creative environment with sometimes hundreds of creative people working on the same game, often multiple people composing too – and games take years to develop, which means they change a lot, and so do the direction and requirements for the music. That in turn means that I get to try a lot of new things and work with styles and genres that wouldn’t potentially be my first choice. It can be a true creative playground.
So in the end personal style doesn’t really matter. What matters is to inject the game with the music it needs. 
And when players tell me that a cue I worked on was especially immersive for them – that’s a win for me. 

Can you share some insights into the challenges and rewards of creating music and voiceovers specifically tailored to enhance the gaming narrative and player experience? And what piece of advice you would give to someone aspiring to follow a similar career path?

As opposed to music for linear mediums such as albums or film, game music is non-linear and thus has certain limitations by default. Depending on the game, we don’t actually know all the different scenarios a player can find themselves in. We can take educated guesses but the music and the music tech has to work in all sorts of game instances – even the ones we don’t think of. That’s a challenge in itself.

Writing a song is straightforward but how do you arrange for interactivity? How do you ensure the music sits well between SFX and dialogue if these are triggered at random times? How do you keep transitions seamless and elegant to not disrupt the immersion?
How do you write a loop that could play for an entire hour without it becoming boring or annoying? 
It can become quite complex as every problem is unique to the project, and needs bespoke solutions. So it’s necessary to think outside of the box and use your creative muscles differently. 
To me that’s what’s fascinating and fun – the journey to those solutions is the reward for me. Everything after that is a bonus. 

The biggest piece of advice is one you’ll hear a lot in the games (and even film) industry: Leave your ego at the door. 
It really couldn’t be more essential. If an idea gets rejected, you don’t have to bin it, but don’t defend it relentlessly. Put it aside and focus on another. It can be hard, cause we’re all passionate about what we do, we have to be. But passion is no excuse for poor collaboration. This is what’s going to build a strong creative muscle – the reassurance that even if an idea you loved didn’t make it, you can come up with an even better one, and another one, and another one. I believe it’s a true art to manage one’s creativity this way.

Thanks for this interview, Annina!

Annina’s links: LinkedIn, Youtube, Spotify, Website

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Madeleine Egger