How My Nintendo Obsession Leveled Up My Musical Creativity

Tunes set the tone for each gaming experience

Some of us leapt to bread-baking, scallion farming or Netflix binging during the pandemic. I rediscovered my childhood love of video games. My husband bought himself a Nintendo Switch to occupy a suddenly industry-event-free schedule. Surprisingly, I was the one who became immediately hooked. First, fishing with the cute villagers of Animal Crossing absorbed my days—and who doesn't adore a massive, house-decorating Sim? Giving Super Mario: Odyssey a spin deepened my obsession with the device. And by the time I started The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW), I had become a Nintendo convert.

I had discovered something else: my gravitational pull toward puzzles and adventure games, and particularly those with strong narratives, was propelled by the same passions that drive my career. Both scratch my itch for problem-solving and feed my love of music.

BotW comes with 120 additional puzzles beyond the main quest, and I made it my mission to master each one without spoilers. This mirrored my work with Butter: a day-in, day-out life of solving client conundrums. Brands come to us for the right music match, but often don't have a clear idea of how to explain their needs. Choosing tracks becomes a puzzle, and I feel the same elation from getting it right and "winning" the "game" as I do when unlocking one more shrine.

Of course, music sets the tone of each gaming experience. Even though Super Mario offered revamped soundtracks for new worlds, it retained the iconic vibes of the original game theme, recreating them for an emerging audience. I appreciated the intricacies of each instrumental while cherishing the nostalgia of playing Nintendo with my dad decades prior. This inspired my work on our recent "Every Day Is Mario Day" spot for the brand.

The power of music is truly incredible. I still heavily rotate songs I listened to as a teenager in my Spotify playlists, and this transports me back to the thrills and heartbreaks of growing up. Music has always allowed me to connect with my emotions, and that powerful bond fuels my work and life as an adult.

As an added bonus, discovering games helped me rethink male-dominated spaces that may seem unapproachable for some women. I grew up when it used to be "the boys" playing video games. Playing them now, I discovered that they are accessible to all.

Switch games specifically have helped me find a fresh sense of belonging. Games may have been somewhat exclusive and guy-dominated in the '80s and '90s. But in the internet arena there are so many resources to learn them—or any craft—regardless of gender. Similarly, the music industry has been historically led by men. Having worked in audio-post at the beginning of my career, I was  intimidated by all the buttons and cables.

It wasn't until taking a Berklee College of Music course that I realized I could pursue my craft independently. At this stage, I am by no means an expert, but I can record and edit my own vocals at home, and collaborate with our composers on original tracks.

From appreciating a captivating OST to finally finding the right track for a client, creative work can capture the same spark as a video game victory. These days, achievement hunting—for clients and myself—feels more fun than ever before.

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