Music in video games is often overlooked. Non-gamers tend to assume that games still use the bleeps and tones of the 8-bit PAC-MAN era, or that ‘proper’ video games use licensed music from ‘proper’ bands.
The truth is very different. There’s never been a better time to appreciate the variety and scope of the music being created for video games - from the smallest indie titles through to the huge blockbuster triple-A titles.
We’ve recently mentioned a couple of notable releases. Doom launched in May with a crushingly heavy metal soundtrack that concealed Satanic imagery which revealed itself when passed through a spectrograph. Later this year 65daysofstatic will be heading out on tour to support their new generative soundtrack for the procedurally-generated wonder which is No Man’s Sky.
The live scene for video games music is huge. For over a decade now, Video Games Live has been touring the world, performing with full size orchestras and choirs at many of the biggest and most prestigious live venues in the world.
Created in 2005 by Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall, both noted composers in the games world, Video Games Live boasts production values which would make many music headliners weep. Covering every era from the earliest arcade games such as Tetris and Asteroids, through to the latest titles such as Halo, World Of Warcraft and Metal Gear Solid, the concerts combine orchestral performance with rock music and audience participation.
Tallarico - the cousin of Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler (real name: Steven Victor Tallarico) said “Video Games Live is all of the power and emotion of the symphony orchestra combined with the energy and excitement of a rock concert, mixed together with the cutting-edge visuals, technology, interactivity, and fun that video games provide. But what really makes Video Games Live and why it’s become the huge success it has, is that we’re not just catering to hardcore gamers. We’re catering to families, catering to grandparents just as much as to an 8-year-old.”
With five successful Kickstarter campaigns under their belt to create albums and movies, as well as a back-to-back touring schedule, Video Games Live is living proof that games music has never been more popular.
Public performance is a new opportunity many game composers seem to be relishing. In the build-up to the release of one of the most eagerly-awaited sequels of the year, Final Fantasy XV, publisher Square Enix has planned a pretty awesome one-off concert at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.
Yoko Shimomra, composer of music for Kingdom Hearts and Street Fighter II, has teamed up with the London Philharmonic Orchestra to perform some her latest work for Final Fantasy XV.
The show will run live for around an hour with Shimomura providing some insight into her inspirations and the recording of FFXV’s soundtrack as well as full orchestral performances of some of the game’s music including several previously unheard tracks.
Even smaller games are getting in on the act with several small mobile and indie games featuring original scores and collaborations with musicians, bands and composers to create soundtracks worthy of a place in a ‘real’ music collection.
Visit Steam (the world’s biggest games distribution platform with around 10,000 games and well over 125,000,000 users) and you’ll find a growing number of games now sell their soundtracks separately, or as part of a bundle.
From major releases such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, through to breakthrough indie hits such as Hotline: Miami, Hyper Light Drifter and even Slain: Back From Hell, there’s a huge range of genres and talent on display.
It’s light years away from the four-note sequence of Space Invaders, or the weedly-weedly-weedly-blurp-blurp of Pac-Man.