Jing Zhang M.M. ’18: The Journey of an Award-Winning Video Game Music Composer

Berklee Valencia alum Jing Zhang M.M. ‘18—who was driven to pursue a career in video game composition to bring joy to others and to create an emotional resonance between game players and her music—is earning accolades in the field, including an award for music she composed for Honor of Kings.

July 1, 2024

Since childhood, Jing Zhang M.M. ‘18 has taken inspiration from video games. One video game in particular always evokes strong memories for her: The Maple Story.

“Each map's music is filled with memories. Although the production quality might seem a bit dated now, those pieces are deeply ingrained in me. I hope my music can bring similar memories to others,” she says.

Zhang pursued a career in video game composition primarily to bring joy to others and to create an emotional resonance between game players and her music. The music in video games has more space to express itself, she says, allowing more opportunities for players to notice and remember it.

This passion, combined with a talent for composition and a drive to succeed in her chosen field, helped Zhang land a role at Tencent, the prestigious Chinese video game producer.

Here, she has composed music for Honor of Kings, the world’s most-played five-versus-five multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game for mobile. Her work for Tencent has already made waves in the video game industry, winning the Best Main Theme award for “Haiyue Theme” at the Game Audio Network Guild Awards in 2023. The piece won the award alongside the theme music for Sony's incredibly popular console game, God of War Ragnarök.

She says winning the award is one of her career highlights thus far. “It's genuinely remarkable that Honor of Kings, a mobile game, could compete in music quality with console games and win an award.”

Zhang’s composition beat tough competition from Elden Ring and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II and was the only mobile game on the shortlist for the award. Major console games generally give composers greater technology to express themselves, making the victory even more impressive. The award is a testament to Zhang’s talent and creativity.

For all her success since joining Tencent, it so easily might not have happened. Before joining the company, Zhang was enjoying life as a freelance composer. After winning a pitch to compose her now award-winning theme for Honor of Kings, she discovered that the current music designer was about to leave. In a sliding doors moment, the producer recognized Zhang’s talent and asked if she would be interested in the full-time role. 

Zhang credits her time at Berklee Valencia, where she was a student in the scoring for film, television, and video games master’s program, as a pivotal moment in her development. After spending two years studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she was introduced to the concepts of music theory for the first time, she moved to Spain to hone her skills in her chosen specialty: video game music design.

“I was eager to delve deeper into the discipline and gain practical experience in recording and understanding the industry's formal processes,” she says.

A self-taught pianist, Zhang had never studied music before her Berklee experience. The college equipped Zhang with “a clear processing logic and confidence rooted in my understanding of the workflow,” which allowed her to bring her creative ideas to life. It has given her the confidence to tackle any project, no matter how big.

In particular, she highlights recording at AIR Studios in the United Kingdom as a seminal step in her Berklee education.  

“I had the opportunity to experience the entire process of taking a piece of music from creation to recording and mixing. The recording experiences in the UK were identical to the workflows in real-world projects, familiarizing me with the process,” she says.

If the last few years have been illuminating for Zhang’s work, the future looks even brighter. Honor of Kings, which already has more than 100 million active daily users, mostly in China, has recently launched globally. 

The game is now available through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store in Europe, Latin America, North America, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Japan, and Korea, bringing Zhang’s music to a new audience.