Halo music composer Marty O’Donnell is running for Congress in Nevada Halo music composer Marty O’Donnell is running for Congress in Nevada
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Marty O’Donnell, the creator of the music for Bungie games like Halo and Destiny, announced he is running for a seat in Congress in Nevada.

O’Donnell lives in Lone Mountain, a neighborhood in Las Vegas, and he will run against incumbent Democrat Susie Lee in November in Nevada’s third congressional district, assuming O’Donnell prevails in the Republican primary in June. O’Donnell has to officially file to run in March.

He said in an interview with GamesBeat he wants to restore sanity to Washington so we can rebuild our economy to have a thriving middle class, bring security to the country and the border, and restore the values that lead to strong families and strong communities.

O’Donnell is pretty well known in video game circles as a composer and audio director for games such as Riven, Myth II, Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Destiny and Golem. He is new to politics, as he’s never run for an office before.

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“Politics has always been a kind of hobby,” O’Donnell said. “I just don’t really like the toxic divisions that are happening in our country. I don’t like any of that stuff. And I was sort of reaching out to some local people if there was some way I could help out. I got a bunch of calls from people who asked if I would consider running for Congress.”

This is in the “believe it or not” category of stories I’ve done over time. The last game developer I wrote about running for Congress was Brianna Wu, who ran for a seat in the 8th congressional district in Massachusetts in 2018. She lost. O’Donnell hopes his own fame in gaming will help him and he thinks his lack of experience in politics will be an advantage. O’Donnell acknowledges he hasn’t lived in Las Vegas for very long, but he hopes to be able to represent it well.

“We understand what it’s like out here and we love Nevada. I love Las Vegas,” he said. “I’d never thought I’d be saying that being from Chicago and Seattle. I’m very happy with the weather here.”

I asked him if he supports Trump. He said yes. That’s going to be a hot button.

“America enjoyed a secure border and no inflation in the Trump administration four years ago,” O’Donnell said. “I have voted for President Trump twice and will vote for him a third time this fall. But no matter who is elected this November, if I have the privilege to serve, I plan to work with them. That’s what voters expect and that’s what I’ll do.”


Marty O’Donnell created the music and audio for the Halo and Destiny games. Pictured in 2015.

O’Donnell, 68, grew up in Chicago. He earned his master of music degree in composition with honors from USC in 1981. Then, a few months later, Marty started his first career by founding the Chicago-based commercial music and sound production company O’Donnell/Salvatori Inc.

In 1997, Marty embarked on his second career, producing music and sound design for video games. He created sound design for Cyan’s Riven, the sequel to Myst, and all of the audio for Bungie’s award-winning Myth series. In 2000, he moved to Seattle after Microsoft bought Bungie, whose Halo turned into one of the most successful game franchises of all time. At least 81 million copies have been sold to date.

The audio and music for the Halo series have received numerous honors and awards, including the Game Developers Choice Award, the Edge Award, Rolling Stone Magazine’s Best Game Soundtrack, and Best Sound/Music from the AIAS, IGDA, GANG, TEC, and Spike TV. The critically acclaimed soundtracks, produced in partnership with Nile Rodgers, are also best sellers.

In July of 2007, O’Donnell helped lead Bungie to regain its independence. His final project with the studio, Destiny, featured music in collaboration with Sir Paul McCartney. The stand-alone soundtrack, Music of the Spheres, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios. In addition to creating and overseeing sound design, music, and implementation, he also cast and directed all the voice acting for Bungie’s games. The music and audio from Destiny have won several awards, including Best Audio and Best Music from the AIAS. He was awarded GANG’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

A few years ago, he moved into semi-retirement and relocated to Las Vegas to be close to his grandchildren. His last project was working for Highwire, creating the VR game Golem. And he worked on the controversial game Six Days in Fallujah. That game is in early access.

Before games, O’Donnell worked in television and radio, writing jingles for Flinstones Vitamins, Mr. Clean and other ads.

Asked about politics, he said, “This is not something I ever expected to do. I wanted to spend more time with family. And now I probably need to spend less time with my family. At least that’s what my family is telling me. I don’t think I’m the kind of guy who really wants to retire forever. But I don’t want to do any more crunching in the game business.”

He said he is a civic-minded person. He has served on jury duty several times and he said he always hated career politicians who spent their whole lives running.

“I’ve always thought that Congress should be like a civic duty, right? You should go in and then and do your bit and then get out. It was like somebody was asking me to put my money where my mouth was,” he said. “I used to tell my kids there should be Congress duty, just like jury duty.”

His daughter runs a nonprofit, Foster Kinship, and she encouraged him to take the step. The district itself is on the northwest side of Las Vegas, in middle-class neighborhoods. It doesn’t include the Las Vegas Strip, but it does include Summerlin, Lone Mountain and parts of Henderson.

“One of the things that’s so depressing to me is when I watch TV or the news. I start yelling at it all by myself. The just the amount of toxic divisions that have happened in the last decade — I just don’t like it,” he said. “We have disagreements on political issues. We agree on what games we like, or we agree on music, or we have common ground on a lot of stuff. We don’t have to demonize each other all the time.”

O’Donnell went to the Super MAGFest, a big music festival in Washington D.C. But otherwise he hasn’t been to the nation’s capitol that often.

As for why he’s a Republican, he said, “I’m a Boomer and I’m a conservative. But I have not been a big fan of politicians. So I have a hard time even saying that I’m Republican, but I don’t really like what the Democratic representative has been doing here. And so that’s why I’m running against them.”

As for issues like video game violence, O’Donnell believes that the government was pretty clueless in going after the game industry for causing people to be violent.

“They just made fools of themselves. There is a lot of talk about AI coming into these industries. I feel like there are many people in politics who have no clue what AI is,” he said. “It would be nice to have at least one person in there who has a clue.”

Launching on Discord

O’Donnell believes he’ll have an advantage in part because he is well known in games, and he has the power of what he calls the “Marty Army,” which consists of thousands of fans on Discord. He is announcing his candidacy on the Discord channel in the audio chat. Most probably don’t live in the district, but they might be able to help with the campaign.

He also plans to push the announcement on Twitter and YouTube and start a channel dubbed “Marty for Congress.” During the pandemic, O’Donnell had great success in his first post on TikTok, where he launched a piano performance where his old dog Baxter howled in the background. Sadly, Baxter passed away a year ago. That video got more than two million views. As for Halo, the original Halo soundtrack above has more than 47 million views on YouTube.

In video games, O’Donnell had some legal clashes with former employers. He left Bungie in 2014. At Bungie, he got into a dispute with management about stock options he was owed which the company attempted to cancel. In 2015, he won a lawsuit against them and got his options back. That mattered because Bungie eventually sold itself to Sony for $3.6 billion. O’Donnell said he has resolved disputes with the companies involved.


Six Days in Fallujah will be 90% tactical decisions, but it will include moral decisions too.
Six Days in Fallujah will be 90% tactical decisions, but it will include moral decisions too. Marty O’Donnell work on the game, which is in early access.

Through his daughter’s charity, Foster Kinship, O’Donnell has witnessed how the government manages foster children. It helps navigate the system for children who have lost parents and need help. O’Donnell said he wants government to stand up for families better.

He is also upset that real wages for the middle class have been squeezed while the wealth gap has widened. O’Donnell wants to reverse the trend and help middle class citizens and small businesses. He wants to address economic stagnation. He thinks his district is focused on the same problems. (Here is a fact check on the state of the middle class in the U.S.).

There is no particular law he would like to pass on behalf of gamers. He said, “I just think games are entertainment and federal government shouldn’t have much to say about entertainment.”

Immigration issue

Marty O’Donnell is a career musician for video games.

On top of that, O’Donnell said, “I don’t like what’s happening on the border. I look at the border and wonder how are these millions and millions of people coming in without us knowing who they are or where they’re going? That just doesn’t seem you should handle a country. Your country should have secure borders. And that doesn’t seem like a controversial thought to me. I really am watching state governments fighting the federal government over how to secure borders. It just seems like something’s got to change. That’s just silly. That’s horrible.”

Here’s a fact check on the border situation.

As for solutions, O’Donnell said he has a lot of studying to do.

“I’m a history buff, and I have principles that are conservative. But my issue right now is that I feel like there’s a crisis at the border,” he said. “I don’t really think this is an issue for Democrats or Republicans. I think there’s enough blame to go around.”

O’Donnell said that he believes gamers are more on the left, as they’re younger. But he has never hid that he is a conservative when it comes to politics.

“I’ve spent my entire career working with people who are pretty left to center. And I can have constructive conversations with those people. We don’t demonize each other,” he said.

Republican roots

Marty O’Donnell and his wife with their grandkids.

He acknowledged they might be “a little ticked off” that he’s running as a Republican. O’Donnell sees himself as a Federalist, where he believes the government should do less, not more.

“I think bigger issues will rise to the surface when it comes to tech and the future. And, frankly, I just hope to be somebody who could be in a position to not be quite as uninformed as I think some people are right now in Congress,” he said.

While O’Donnell has tangled with corporations, he thinks that small businesses should be helped. He thinks that large corporations should not have so much influence on the federal government.

“Big business influencing big government is is a bad thing, period,” he said. “I’m going to tell you right now I will not take any money from big business.”

As for acquisitions like Microsoft’s $68.7 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard, he doesn’t think that the government should block that kind of deal, and he believes the free market will sort itself out. He is writing music still, including an acapella Requiem Mass.

O’Donnell said he believes he will have endorsements from interesting people, but he won’t disclose that for now. And he’s excited about the campaign.

“I’m trying to mentally prepare for it,” he said. “I don’t need to do this. I’m not doing this to make money. I’m not doing this for power. I’m honestly doing this because I feel like it’s a civic duty for people who have the ability to do something like this.”

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