Oklahoma City University offers students unique video game composition class

“Music Scoring for Video Games” will be taught by Chance Thomas, an Oklahoma City native who has composed music for games like “The Lord of the Rings Online” and “Avatar: The Game.”
BY BEN LUSCHEN, Staff Writer Published: May 5, 2014
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Chance Thomas is deep in the jungle. The air is dense and humid.

Snapping sounds in the distance get louder as they approach. Thomas turns, startled to see a ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex hot on his tail.

Thomas takes off, plowing through the dense forest, ferns scratching up his face. The predator’s breath is hot on his neck.

Then a melody pops into his mind. And it’s all over.

Thomas, an Oklahoma City native, composes music for video games. Beginning May 13, he will be teaching a special nine-day course at Oklahoma City University called “Music Scoring for Video Games.”

Thomas uses a self-described “method actor” approach to find inspiration for his scores.

“Once I can truly imagine myself there, complete with the adrenaline, the panic, the smells, sights and sounds — then I start to hear music that matches those emotions,” he said. “This is how I began the scoring process, whether it is for a game, a film, a television show or even a commercial.”

It’s a method he hopes his students will employ as well. In the course, students will “acquire an understanding of best practices in conventional music scoring and video game scoring,” according to an excerpt from the syllabus. “They will learn about music design and how to construct a functionally effective music design for a game level.”

Students will also work on a class project that will give them hands-on experience in scoring a game level.

Edward Knight, composer-in-residence at OCU, said the school knew it wanted Thomas to be more involved with the music program after a master class the video game composer headed in January 2013.

“He obviously was incredibly moved by the students, the program, and wanted to do more for OCU,” Knight said.

“I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I felt something really magical from the students, faculty and administration there,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he could feel an energy and focus from the students at OCU that convinced him to offer his course there as opposed to any of the other schools he’s visited.

“That is the kind of environment from which future leaders in the arts will emerge,” he said.

Knight said he sees how big the video game industry has become, and said this unique course taught by an accomplished industry professional will give students experience in a specialized area that could give them an inside track to a job in a multibillion-dollar industry.