Like most young boys and teens, Casey Edwards played video games.
“All the time,” he said.
“Asteroids.” “Super Mario.” “Tony Hawk Pro Skater.” “Halo.”
The names continue.
Like most adults with a job and a family, he no longer has as much time to play video games. Now he’s helping to make them.
A 2012 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition, Edwards now composes music for video games.
“That’s always the story, right? You want to be involved in video games in some capacity because of how much you love playing them,” Edwards said. “Then you get involved and, all of a sudden, you have no time.”
His latest work can be heard on “Exoprimal,” a game released in July, and “Mortal Kombat 1,” a redesigned version of the 30-year-old game set for release in September. He’s currently composing music for two more video games, “Unfortunately, I can’t talk about them yet,” he said.
A native of Ringgold, Georgia, who graduated from Lakeview High School, Edwards waited tables at Longhorn Steakhouse for several years, both as a UTC student and after graduating.
He and his wife, Ali, moved to Los Angeles in 2014. She is a visual artist who works in the animation industry with companies such as DreamWorks and Nickelodeon. Before leaving Chattanooga, they had a career plan in place.
“Our motto when we landed was: No matter what we’re doing, if someone invites us out somewhere, let’s always make that effort to be there because that’s why we’re here. To meet people, to network, to make friends and long-term relationships.”
Once on the West Coast, he landed work with Corridor Digital, a company making short films and web series and posting them on its YouTube channel. The company’s YouTube website, now filled with dozens of shows, has almost 10 million subscribers.
“People were making these fan films, essentially, and video game companies really took note of that,” Edwards said.
Ubisoft, maker of the “Assassin’s Creed” game series, gave Corridor Digital the money to make a short film for “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.” Edwards was hired to compose some of the music.
“Ubisoft put them out on an actual pirate ship. They gave them a whole crew, some money and some budget for custom music and stuff,” Edwards said. “That one was a ton of fun.”
From there, he regularly was hired by Corridor Digital and another company, RocketJump, to compose music for online commercials that promoted other video games, including “Assassin’s Creed,” “Far Cry,” “The Lord of the Rings” and “Age of Empires.”
“I got to do that for about two or three years,” he said. “It was—and still is—a wonderful and inspiring network of friends both on and off work.”
In most cases, Edwards said, he is hired a couple of years into the development process once a game’s storyline is mostly in place and some of the individual scenes have been drafted.
“By then they understand the scope of their music needs,” he explained. “They don’t really want to reach out to me and either burn money or waste their own time.”
For instance, he was first contacted to work on “Exoprimal” in 2019.
‘“Then they quickly decided they needed a break to figure out some story stuff, so we paused the music, and I didn’t hear back on that probably for about two years or so.”
Most of the music he composes is “virtual,” using instruments already available on computerized synthesizers.
“While almost every composer certainly hopes to have live players when needed, our primary toolkit relies on virtual instruments and synths, whether it be for taste or budgetary reasons, though the latter is almost always the culprit,” he said.
On many video games, he explained that the task is to write music that changes during the game. As the players advance through various levels, they will hear different parts of his composition—an instrumental here, some vocals there, a song chorus for a special moment, Edwards said. In a way, hearing new musical passages becomes something of a reward, just like the points the player amasses.
One of his compositions, the theme song for Vergil, a character in the special edition version of “Devil May Cry 5,” has more than 76 million listens on Spotify.
“Which kind of blows my mind,” Edwards said.
He also composes music for the online trailers that advertise a game. Known in the industry as “cinematics,” the music plays the same role as it would for a theatrical film, providing emotional heft for what’s happening onscreen.
Despite his years and success in video-game music, Edwards said he still must prove himself with each composition.
“In this business, it’s no longer good enough to be a good or great composer. You absolutely have to deliver stunning demos and final works to be taken seriously.”