What do a frozen German winter and a city demolished by World War II combat sound like? Composer Wilbert Roget II ’05 captures these scenes in music for his score to the latest installment in the Call of Duty video game franchise.

While composing the soundtrack, Roget grappled with how to musically capture the game’s World War II characters and setting. Roget, who studied music as a Yale undergraduate, has been composing video game scores for about 12 years. Growing up, he focused on music, studying piano and improvising original melodies. He first became interested in video games as a high school student after playing installments of the Final Fantasy series, known for its musically expressive soundtrack. As a student at Yale, Roget continued his work in music composition with the hope of one day writing scores for video games like Call of Duty.  

“For Call of Duty, I would say that my style actually changed quite a bit,” Roget said.

According to Roget, because the newest Call of Duty installment returns to the WWII setting of the original game, his compositional style acknowledges the realistic elements of the video game’s world. Unlike other fictional fantasy or sci-fi video games, which a more elaborate orchestration suits, this Call of Duty soundtrack required a less embellished style.  

“You have to just keep things as simple as possible,” Roget said. “You don’t want to have an overbearing orchestral approach because it will just sound fake — it would just sound almost sarcastic and not very heartfelt.”

In writing the score, Roget challenged himself to write the simplest melodies possible and to orchestrate the music to make the events of the game feel more real. Because of the game’s realistic setting, Roget wrote music that captures the fact that the game’s characters “are going through the horrific situations and fighting for their lives.”

Roget noted that his Call of Duty score also includes more “sounds outside the orchestra,” like the noise of 1940s tanks, steam trains and explosions. Still, he also aimed to avoid making his soundtrack unapproachably historical.

“We wanted it to be relatable and wanted it to sound and feel contemporary, so that people would get into it and understand the characters first and foremost,” he said.

James Grad ’20, who recently purchased the new Call of Duty game, said music adds to gaming experiences by making games more immersive and creating a movie-like atmosphere.

Grad added that although he has not purchased other Call of Duty games recently, the franchise’s return to the original WWII setting appealed to him. Daniel Morgan ’18 noted that video game scores often enhance the gaming experience, adding that the music conveys “a sense of purpose to the player as the protagonist” that the game would otherwise lack.

Roget also discussed his view of the role of music in video games.

Music can “collapse the sense of time” while playing, he said, and add a timelessness to the game. Although graphics, gameplay and standards become outdated, the music is “always there.”

Roget was a member of Ezra Stiles College during his time at Yale.

Julia Carabatsos | julia.carabatsos@yale.edu