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Game Music

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OSV Composer of the Year Award 2011: Jake Kaufman

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While 2011 was an amazing year for game music, it seemingly came from every which direction with no single composer standing out at least in terms of quantity. Our 2010 pick came very easily, but this year was a little different as we all hunkered down to listen to each nominee’s two or three works released last year and finally came to a decision, and it’s one I’ve been waiting for a long time to write.

Hit the jump to find out why we’ve picked Jake Kaufman for our Composer of the Year 2011!

I want to acknowledge our other nominees before I launch in, however. Naoshi Mizuta blew us away with his score for Final Fantasy XIII-2, showing us that he was capable of more than anyone had previously believed, while Motoi Sakuraba surprised everyone with his powerful Dark Souls score that stayed true to the style established by Demon’s Souls. Finally, the ever prolific Inon Zur is always a stand out with great soundtracks last year including Dragon Age II and Rift.

So, on to our winner! Jake Kaufman has done some amazing work over the years, but 2011 was easily his best yet. In addition to providing two of our favorite soundtracks of the year, he also contributed to two of our other nominees, SOUNDSHOCK: FM FUNK MADNESS!! And the amazing Songs for the Cure ’11: Remedy, both of which were great tracks. He was even featured on a CAVE arrange album, Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu Black Label Arrange Mode Album.

In addition to his soundtrack and arrangement work, he’s also hit the live performance circuit again, performing at MAGFest this year in what was one of the most memorable performances of the event (although this was technically in 2012), but he’s had other performances scattered throughout 2011.

2011 also saw the release of his catchy Mighty Milky Way / Mighty Flip Champs dual soundtrack in May that sported a fun vocaloid title theme. But it wasn’t until September that we got a taste of BloodRayne: Betrayal, one of our nominees for Soundtrack of the Year, combining Gothic rock and orchestral elements in one of the most powerful and beautiful scores I’ve heard in some time, highly reminiscent of titles like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. In addition to providing a wonderfully convincing score, he went as far as to include an entire 8-bit version of the soundtrack that was unlockable in the game (OSV spoiled that surprise prior to release… oops!) which was equally amazing.

Kaufman then snuck Mighty Switch Force! into December 2011, right before our awards cut-off. The combination of catchy melodies paired to an eclectic variety of electronic music was an instant hit, easily earning the top nod in our Handheld Soundtrack of the Year category. It’s a lot of fun, and is up there with BloodRayne: Betrayal as one of Kaufman’s greatest works.

While Composer of the Year was a difficult decision this year, I feel highly privileged to be able to present it to Jake Kaufman for his achievements in 2011. Congratulations to Jake Kaufman, and here’s hoping that 2012 proves even more successful!

[Photo courtesy of Emi Spicer]

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