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The unsung women of video game music

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Let Breath of the Wild serve as an important reminder

The latest episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit, Mark Brown’s insightful web series about game design, breaks down what makes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s soundtrack so powerful. But the video doesn’t just serve as a reminder of how great the new Zelda game’s music is — it’s a powerful example of just how influential women are in the gaming industry, often in less visible ways.

Brown makes that clear in a series of tweets that followed the video’s release. Inspired by a commenter’s surprise by the gender of Breath of the Wild’s composer, Manaka Kataoka, he named several other influential female composers with memorable, influential work.

The entire thread is worth a read, especially for fans of Japanese games in particular. The Japanese gaming industry is full of female composers, like Kingdom Hearts’ Yoko Shimomura, Metal Gear Solid’s Rika Muranaka and Shinobu Tanaka, the woman behind Mario Kart’s “Rainbow Road” track.

On the Western front, women like Winifred Phillips have become renowned for their scores; Phillips has even penned a bestselling book on composing music for games like Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, the LittleBigPlanet series and God of War.

While the tweets mostly put (women’s) names next to well-known games, the thread overall is an important moment of recognition for some of gaming’s more unsung heroes. It’s also a rare one, as giving credit where it’s due to the people behind-the-scenes has also long been difficult in gaming.

“Many of your favourite Japanese games were scored by women!” wrote Brown. They're just not as famous as [Koji] Kondo or [Nobuo] Uematsu ...”

When it comes to gaming soundtracks, men like those — whose work can be heard in other Zelda games, the Final Fantasy series and more hugely popular franchise — are often the names that come to mind. But in an industry where women make up a minority as it is, Brown’s Twitter thread is a nice way to break the assumption that men are the only ones in the recording studio.