April 9th: Eadweard Muybridge & Soyo Oka

Another Google Doodle was posted today, this time honoring Eadweard Muybridge (born April 9th, 1830). Muybridge is most well known for his work in capturing the motion of animals, in a very early form of motion picture. Today’s animated Doodle highlights his most well-known work, which demonstrates that all 4 of a horse’s hooves leave the ground simultaneously during a trot.

Here on Speaking Up, we’ll fast forward quite a bit from Muybridge’s work to one of the later offshoots of the motion picture — the video game! After the development of the capability to capture and play back sounds and images, the next technological leaps forward brought interaction and user direction into play.

Today, April 9th, is the 48th birthday of Soyo Oka, a Japanese composer of many well-known video game soundtracks. Oka joined Nintendo as a composer in the mid-1980s, and so she describes her work as a challenge of not just creativity but technology. Early video game consoles reserved only three channels for sound, and game effects would often interrupt the score to use one of those channels, so Oka’s compositions needed to sound natural, enticing and exciting under those conditions. Oka’s most well-known works, including the soundtrack to Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, are essentially the soundtrack of 1980s and early 1990s childhood.

Soyo Oka

After leaving Nintendo, Soyo Oka broadened her work into other media, including television, radio, live events, and and web content. In the video below, you can listen to Soyo Oka’s favorite of her compositions, appearing in the Rainbow Road track of Super Mario Kart. Full disclosure: Rainbow Road is my favorite track in any incarnation of Mario Kart!

Soyo Oka’s music made a key contribution to every game she was involved in, making her perfect for our project here at Speaking Up to highlight female creators and innovators who aren’t necessarily getting their due. I wanted to highlight her especially because the specific industry Oka was involved in isn’t known for gender diversity — in fact, recent surveys (including the 2007 Game Developer Magazine Salary Survey) have shown that just 20% of employees, and only 3% of programmers, at video game companies are women. Interactive media provides exciting career opportunities for those interested in technology, engineering, art, and user experiences, so it’s important to highlight role models and success stories within this industry.

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3 thoughts on “April 9th: Eadweard Muybridge & Soyo Oka

  1. Pingback: April 24th: Gideon Sundback (#10) & Yvonne Cagle « Speaking Up

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