Mass Effect 2's composers deserved a higher billing

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I recently finished Mass Effect 2, and was blown away by something as I watched the end credits. Top billing is given to the Project Director, Lead Designer, Lead Writers, Art Director, Lead Programmer, and Senior Project Manager. The main credit roll lists the entirety of over a dozen departments (including, with all due respect, QA testers, the IT department and EA corporate leadership) then finally, in the middle of a long “External Partners” list, Lead Composer Jack Wall and Composers Jimmy Hinson, Sam Hulick, and David Kates.

I may just not understand the politics of publisher and studio credits — maybe it’s standard practice at EA to not give prominent billing to independent composers — but listing those responsible for Mass Effect’s iconic and fantastic music at the end of the credits, in the same list as your recording and mocap studios, seems ridiculously disproportionate.

I checked the credits of Xenoblade Chronicles, another game with amazing music I finished recently, and its composers appear no less than 22 seconds into the credits role, being upstaged only by the cast, lead writers, and lead artist. To be fair, this could just have been an exception or difference in Japanese game production culture, so I checked the credits for Beyond Good & Evil, and sure enough, the composer is given top billing early in the credits.

So what’s going on with Mass Effect 2? Imagine the Normandy unveiling without the amazing music punctuating it; playing through Overlord without the great combat theme; the effectiveness the Mass Effect 1 main theme during this conversation with Liara; and how foreboding, creepy, and cohesive the Collector musical themes are. Music is too important of a part of the Mass Effect series for the composers to be left at the end of the credits — you’d think the ripped the soundtrack from a royalty-free music collection the way they credit Wall and his colleagues.

Am I overreacting? Probably, but I think this is a symptom of how immature the games industry still is. Do you think John Williams or (on a more related note) Vangelis would expect in a million years to be billed after production assistants, studio IT staff, and the HR department of the studio’s parent company? Do you think those who care a lot about movies would stand for it? As a fan of the Mass Effect soundtracks — and video game music in general — this struck me as insulting to these talented artists who have played such an important role in the series.

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