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Video Game Music Recognition Gets a Boost 112

kghapa writes to tell us that for the first time ever, video game music is getting a much higher level of recognition through inclusion in this year's Ivor Novello Awards in London. "With the growing recognition of the immense detail and complex music compositions that are dedicated to video games, it seemed only a matter of time until game music was given some rightful spotlight. As the huge success and popularity of the fully orchestrated 'Video Games Live' concert has proved, modern and even classic games of days past have truly awe-inspiring musical scores. This concert alone has sold up to half a million tickets and featured music from a wide variety of games and gaming eras, from World of Warcraft to Zelda."
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Video Game Music Recognition Gets a Boost

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  • Finally (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Mario Paint -Through Fire and Flame" will get it's due.
  • by Andy Jensen ( 1723474 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:38PM (#30813686)
    Honestly, I'm not to surprised. The music in video games have increased in complexity and quality on an exponential scale. Now full orchestras are making music with real instruments versus the previous 8-bit simple tunes. But I still prefer the classic themes. Maybe I'm just overly nostalgic instead of knowing my music...
    • I miss the old midi music in games Brian Schmidt did some real good music in the old pinball / video games in the late 80's and 90's also Chris Granner did good work as well.

      battletoads arcade is very good as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The old Mario themes were actually pretty complex and really pushed the envelope with what you could do with limited polyphony. Their reggae-inspired rhythms let the composer work around the problem of only being able to play a few notes at a time by using staggered rhythms. Sometimes a limitation can be an inspiration!
    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      It's a different aesthetic, and to some extent I find the older stuff more interesting as "videogame music", precisely because it has clear technical constraints that gives it some identifiable qualities and drives particular kinds of creativity. Modern games often have interesting music, but it's more or less soundtrack music, like films. It can be well done, but it's not really its own separate kind of music.

      • I agree. When I think of music for games, I don't think of epic, orchestral, blaring overtures. I think more of video games with those familiar 8 or 16-bit sounds.
    • I actually like the remakes from 8-bit classics. Have you heard the music in Mario Galaxy? It has amazing nostalgia value and it just sounds great.
    • Honestly, I'm not to surprised. The music in video games have increased in complexity and quality on an exponential scale. Now full orchestras are making music with real instruments versus the previous 8-bit simple tunes. But I still prefer the classic themes. Maybe I'm just overly nostalgic instead of knowing my music...

      I don't think it's just nostalgia that causes the old 8-bit classics to remain special to us. old video game music has 2 things going for it. One is editing. Over time, the mediocre music is forgotten, while the very best (and some of the embarrassingly terrible) live on. For every Zelda tune we remember, there are dozens, if not hundreds that are forgotten.

      The second factor is timber. I'm a fan of the sounds you can get from low-fi electronics. But even I must admit that most of these sounds are awfu

    • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:26PM (#30814196)

      Jeehun Hwang's soundtrack to that Activision 1995 Game of the Year stunned me when I first heard it. Each track was an mp3 on the game disc, and I played it like CD for years in my car. It transformed a giant robot game into Wagner.

      • I agree. I have MW2, MW2: Ghost Bear's Legacy and MW2:Mercanaries all ripped to computer that I regularly play on my MP3 player. Half Life 2 is another that I regularly listen to as well.
      • by tylernt ( 581794 )

        Activision 1995 Game of the Year stunned me when I first heard it. Each track was an mp3 on the game disc, and I played it like CD

        Same for me and Descent 2, except it actually had redbook audio right on the game CD. I listened to it more than I played, and I played D2 way more than was healthy.

        D3 also had some fantastic soundtracks: Level 7, Ceres, was so good I actually stopped playing and just listened to the music.

        Most of D1's soundtrack was also quite good and even had a different track for each of the

      • I played it like CD for years in my car. It transformed a giant robot game into Wagner.

        For some reason I read that as "It transformed my car in to a giant robot."... which also would have been cool.

      • Exactly what I was thinking when I read the article. I remember writing Activision back in the day (when I was 12) asking who composed the music and where I could buy the sound track. I did get a very dismissive response stating that there was no soundtrack and that they would not release any such information to me. Game designers have such great social skills.
    • I'd say they are not mutually exclusive. They are some gems in new games too. I'm listening music from (say) Mario / Kyattou Ninden Teyande / Chrono Trigger / Ar tonelico alongside quite often.

      This post should be in English. If it's not... it's night here right now.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      They do play those old school tunes (e.g., Gauntlet, Tetris, Frogger, Super Mario Bros.), but with real music instruments to sound a lot better.

  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:41PM (#30813722) Journal

    I was thoroughly impressed. I don't know how to describe it fully, but it was a great mix of Nostalgia, awe inspiring, evocative, cultured, and fun all mixed into one. The guy who started it and organizes it knows how to make everyone feel like they are doing more than just sitting and listening to music, he gets the crowd into it. There are even a few times where there will be crowd interaction. He knows how to play the guitar and is usually part of the Halo Theme song, since he loves to rock out.

    All in all, I'd recommnd seeing it at least once. I don't know if I'd go again unless they add more music to the show that I'm familiar with, but it was still a good time.

    Plus any opportunity a geek can get out and actually enjoy his or herself is like a winning lottery ticket.

    • My friend and I went to it too back in October 2007. I have a writeup and photographs/photos. about it: [] ... :)

    • I completely agree. I saw it last year and I only knew about it because I was listening to the radio one day and all the sudden I heard the Halo 3 theme song. Talk about your WTF moments.

      The best part of the show was near the end and the person hosting it what song he should play last. No where else in the world will you hear a few hundred people chant "One Winged Angel".

    • by VickiM ( 920888 )
      I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. I saw Video Games Live during GenCon a few years ago. The music was great, but the host was a complete jerk. He called a young woman up on the stage for the crowd interaction and was all over her, pausing for a brief moment mid-rub to confirm she was 18. He trash-talked traditional classical music and those who enjoyed it. I guess some "hard-core" players would connect with his cocky attitude and general disregard for anyone who wasn't him, but I felt ostraci
    • Those Video Games Live bastards owe me a hundred bucks. When I heard about it, I bought two tickets immediately. It sounded awesome. My wife and I showed up for the show and they had canceled it without any announcement, and refused to refund our money. Video Games Live said Ticketmaster had to refund it and Ticketmaster said Video Games Live had to.
      • Whoever you purchased it from is responsible.

        If you bought them through ticketmaster, ticketmaster is responsible for refunding you.

  • As one who attened the Dear Friends concert in LA (The first concert of video game music in the US) a number of years back I'd say this has been due. Nobuo Uematsu is a great composer/musician and can be well appreciated outside of the video game medium.
  • Castlevania! (Score:3, Informative)

    by derGoldstein ( 1494129 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:44PM (#30813750) Homepage
    Start with Vampire Killer [] and go from there.
  • As a music student, I can't wait for the day when I can quote Koji Kondo's music without my teachers saying, "Who?"
  • Given that video games have their own soundtracks with "real" instruments now, this seems like a natural evolution. There are plenty of movies, for example, that have unremarkable soundtracks that would never get considered for an award. On the other hand, I think quite a few people would agree that the soundtrack for Halo 3: ODST is probably one of the best soundtracks for a game or movie recently in that it totally sets the mood for the environment and is just as important as the imagery.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm putting a note here, huge success!

  • Fewer and fewer people are appreciating classical music these days (which is more or less required to be seen "live". It seems that the trend is reversing because modern movie scores (score music, not source/pop), games and other orchestral music are gaining in popularity, probably due to classical's "stuffy" atmosphere.

    There was a concert held a few months back here (Vancouver, BC) where they intermixed the traditional classical with the modern - moving from Halo, Star Wars, Final Fantasy and such and doin

    • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:35PM (#30814276) Homepage

      In the meantime, those of us who have been following what serious music have been doing for the past 80 or so years don't really treat program music (including game or film soundtracks) very seriously. I mean, I appreciate them for what they are - I think Nobuo Uematsu does a great job, is a very capable composer, etc - but ultimately, it's schmaltzy, cliche-ridden, and sentimental. It sort of has to be to do its work: I don't blame it for being what it is.

      But the inferiority complex about it being "taken seriously" is really sad - it's still, generally, re-using classical music (high-romantic, to be specific) tropes from Wagner through Shostakovich, with an occasional nod to Holst thrown in. It's a hodge-podge of borrowed goods, and not done better than what came before. Videogame fans only get excited about it because they don't know very much about music.

      In any case, my favorite game music is Jonathon Colton's "Still Alive" for Portal - it's just the end-credit song, but it actually works so well with the black humor of the game, is so fresh and surprising - it stands out completely.

    • by Toonol ( 1057698 )
      Not all game soundtracks are classically themed. I LOVE my final fantasy soundtracks, but the best melding of music and game I've seen in years was Persona 4. That soundtrack was all over the place... orchestral, pop, jazz... the most aesthetically fresh approach to a soundtrack in a game I've heard in a long time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Qzukk ( 229616 )

      I just wish the likes of Nobuo Uematsu, Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, James Horner and the like would release the scores

      Sheet music exists [] (at least for piano), you just have to find it [] before it goes out of print.

      (note: I use cdjapan a lot and they're fairly decent, but I've never ordered from vgmworld, so I don't know how good of a store they are)

    • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

      I just wish the likes of Nobuo Uematsu, Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, James Horner and the like would release the scores. I'd learn to play an instrument if I could recreate my favorite movie and game scores.

      I can't agree more. It usually isn't too hard to find sheet music for popular movie scores, but up until recently video game music has been harder to find. I know that as far as the Halo series goes, fans have worked to re-create a lot of the score as sheet music, much of which is available on R []

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:17PM (#30814096) Journal

    I had high hopes for video game music, expecting it to be a perfect chance to break out of the conventions of mainstream movie music. It didn't work out that way, though.

    In fact, it seems that the music in most big games is even less likely to be very interesting today than it was a few years ago. It's like every top selling game out there sounds like the music was written by a bored John Williams, who even at his best, is pedestrian. Even worse is the trend toward just stringing together a bunch of pop and rock hits, just like in the movies.

    I see that a lot of the commenters above thought Final Fantasy schlag and Mario Brothers tunes are the height of game music quality. Nostalgia can be a good thing, but it's not a great recipe for interesting art. And with the current "retro" movement infecting contemporary games, I don't have high hopes for the future of the genre of game music.

    Even with the amount of creative energy going on in the Indie games world, the forces of corporate hegemony and consolidation are going to be just too strong. There's no reason to believe that the future of creativity in gaming is going to be much different than the future of movies: More big, bland blockbusters sucking all the air out of the room for creativity.

    • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:40PM (#30814324) Homepage

      Pope Ratzo, I am with you, but I must warn you: our elitism and snobbery is a long and lonely road.

      • by tieTYT ( 989034 )

        Whenever you critique something you sound like you have authority on the issue. But, until you post some links to superlative music, I'm just going to take the post as a troll.

        • I'm not going to bother with links, but you can Google them: for starters, Morton Feldman. Louis Andriessen. Arvo Part.

          • by tieTYT ( 989034 )

            I'm not going to bother with links, but you can Google them: for starters, Morton Feldman. Louis Andriessen. Arvo Part.

            OK, you probably should have bothered with the links. I'm not sure if I'm listening to songs you think are good or bad but I listened to multiple songs by each and I honestly didn't like it at all. My first thought when listening to it was, "It sounds like music that someone autistic would make". Yeah, not my thing at all. That doesn't mean I'm going to say the music is bad. It's just not my thing. Why do you feel entitled to act like your music better than what I like?

            • Taste still comes into play. But the fact is that I know a lot more about music than you do. If you knew more than you do, as much as I do, you may well not like what I do now. But you probably wouldn't think as highly of what you do like now.

              See my "Farmville" analogy elsewhere. If someone else only knows Farmville and a handful of other games, and you like, for example, Braid or Portal or BioShock, wouldn't you feel in some sense that their tastes were less informed than yours? Even if, should they have l

    • by sowth ( 748135 ) *

      This should not be surprising since Hollywood has taken over most of the video game industry.

    • by Draek ( 916851 )

      What did you expect? creating anything worthy of being compared to Beethoven's Eroica would be an *extremely* expensive endeavor (far above the budget of an indie dev studio) and, given the sales of Classical music today, not a particularly profitable one either.

      Hell, I'm surprised the average ~15 years old tolerates purely instrumental music in games such as MGS3 rather than demanding Guns 'n Roses or some shit like that. Anything beyond that would be asking far too much from the ignorant masses.

  • Slightly Tangent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BikeHelmet ( 1437881 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:20PM (#30814132) Journal

    It seems to me that sooner or later, every sound or piece of music will be a repeat of an older piece.

    What are we going to do when every possible piece of music (words excluded) exists? Sure hope the copyright overlords don't get their hands on all the tunes.

    Oh, slightly OT, but a few days ago I was watching a rerun of Psych when I recognized one of the Stargate Atlantis gate sounds. I can't count the number of times I've heard Starcraft noises in TV shows.

    • The historical answer to this problem has been to make new instruments, new sounds, new rhythms and break all the old rules.

      Video games were successfully doing this until the Compact Disc became the delivery media of choice, allowing room for bland theatrical scores to dominate.

      • "Video games were successfully doing this until the Compact Disc became the delivery media of choice, allowing room for bland theatrical scores to dominate."

        I completely agree, who thought distorted/electornic synth could be musical?

        With all the power of modern sound editing software one can practically create new instruments out of any sound by merely sampling any kind of sounds in the real world.

    • by Wyzard ( 110714 )

      I can't count the number of times I've heard Starcraft noises in TV shows.

      Hey, I heard the Sonic the Hedgehog ring-pickup sound at a convenience store two days ago, as the sound that the barcode scanner makes when it scans an item.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lennier ( 44736 )

      "What are we going to do when every possible piece of music (words excluded) exists?"

      We become melancholy elephants [].

  • If any of you remember playing MUSHA (Aleste), Herzog Zwei or Lords of Thunder, you know what I'm talking about. Best music I've heard on both the Sega Genesis and TG16 systems.

  • Funnily enough, the topic of video game music came up in conversation the other day. The right music can put a great finishing touch to round of a game. I'm sure everyone is familiar with Braid, but Hardw[a]r [] had some pretty decent music to go with the setting of the future on Titan.

    Additionally, if a game is good it creates a pleasurable association with the music present. Sounds obvious, but I still listen to the music from the original GTA because it reminds me of the fun I had. That and some of the song

    • A pox on me for not checking my links. The "4 Letter Love" link is horribly sped up. Sadly, it seems to have the best quality of encoding. The next best I could find was this one [], but it sounds like ass in places.

      • If replying to your own post is bad form, replying to it twice must be, I dunno... punishable by death. I'm an arse because I forgot to mention that you can get the original source of the music from GTA 1 along with the *entire game* (as well as Wild Metal and GTA2) as a free download from Rockstar Classic []. Kudos to them.

        I'll shut up now.

  • My wife got me tickets to Video Games Live a couple of years ago, and we drove to Buffalo (the closest venue at the time) from Philadelphia for the show. While it was pretty cool to see, I was actually kind of disappointed that the performance was amplified and overused backing tracks (I'm not against prerecorded stuff, but use it sparingly please), and really didn't like when that guy came out on stage to wank off on his guitar in front of the orchestra during the final piece.

    I guess I was expecting someth

  • Those in the UK can listen to the lovely Richard Jacques - the man behind lots of classic Sega soundtracks and Video Games Live concerts - on Simon Mayo's BBC Radio 2 programme earlier today.

    I guess it'll be up for another week or so: []

  • W to Z? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Vyse of Arcadia ( 1220278 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:53PM (#30814424)
    Not a lot of variety. Howsabout "Asteroids to Zelda?"
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not a lot of variety.

      What do you mean, they have covered everything from MMORPGs to RPGs.... oh wait nevermind.

  • by John3 ( 85454 ) <john3.cornells@com> on Monday January 18, 2010 @08:32PM (#30814720) Homepage Journal

    My daughter (16 yr old) plays a lot of video games and about 50% of the time she plays music from her iTunes collection rather than listening to the game soundtrack. For example, she plays World or Warcraft and rarely has the music or sound effects from the game playing. Even while in raids she'll listen to a mix of vent dialog and iTunes music. On Xbox 360, she uses the game soundtrack only when necessary (i.e. Rock Band), but at other times uses her own CD's or iTunes shared library.

    This probably has less to do with the music soundtrack of the game and more to do with the multi-tasking that teens are doing. While playing Warcraft she has iTunes playing, AOL IM running with a dozen friends online, vent running with raid members, and her cell phone handy. When I play Warcraft I listen to the soundtrack and effects, but it's probably because if I had iTunes playing as well I'd get distracted. :)

    • Shes probably sensible to play something other than the game soundtrack, the game soundtrack is likely threatening, and written for boys. WoW doesn't have a very good soundtrack anyway, i also find it distracting, and its also much to repeative.


      MUD Games [] Feed @ Feed Distiller []

    • Relatively oldschool, but had some simple-but-interesting instrumental themes. Even so, I turned its sound effects off and let my media player do its usual thing.

    • To be fair though, it's not like WoW's soundtrack is all that memorable. There are some certain themes here and there that are definitely great, but for the most part that game's music definitely falls under the "forgettable background music" category, and when you're playing a game as repetitive in nature as WoW it's better to have music that'll help keep you amped. The only reason I have the soundtracks for WoW is soley just cause of a small handful of songs. The rest of them really aren't worth the el
    • I listen to other music as well. Some games (EVE online, Warcraft 3, Xenosaga/Xenogears, chrono-trigger) have good music, so I've ripped the good tracks and put them into the rotation. I find it's very rare for the music to be truly integral to the feeling of a game these days.

      When playing fast games at LANs I actually tend to listen to Gregorian chants and such. It's far easier to win when relaxed than when nervous.
  • Perhaps we can give all winners a slice of cake? []

  • For anyone who watched the Video Games Live [] trailer on their website and are curious: The first song is from Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, was composed my Tim Larkin, and is called Gallery Theme. The second song is from Myst IV: Revelation, was composed by Jack Wall, and is called Main Theme. The third song is from Myst III: Exile, was composed by Jack Wall, and is called Main Theme.

    I've played all the Myst games a few times, and I have each of those songs on my MP3 player.
  • I think the first time I actually took the mp3's out of a game and burned them to a CD was the Tribes 2 soundtrack. I remember those awesome nights running around as a Juggernaut for hours and hours. Honestly my favorite FPS of all time. And when I was in the "zone" killing everything in site I would find myself jamming to the soundtrack.

    Good times! Good times indeed.

    I might just have to catch the special on PBS.

  • I hope this means that the ThunderForce II soundtrack will get it's just deserts.
    I just love that Technosoft sound.
  • anime music beats video game music any day.
  • by mooterSkooter ( 1132489 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @06:34AM (#30817606)

    The best era for 'computer music' was the 80's. Fact. Rob Hubbard, David Whittiker (sp?) to mention just two.

    I also love the chip tune music that is sometimes still to be found today on 'cracktros'. Great, simple melodies that tend to loop indefinatly, sometimes making it very difficult to switch off.
      I still have an serial-gen (windows) exe for Nero that has an amazing chip-tune.

    THIS is what computer music is.

    Oh and also don't forget the 8bit sound / pop crossover that has sort of happened with the likes of Max Tundra.

    All this new stuff on your Xbox's and you Playstations is NOT computer music in my opinion...

    • rob bubbard is a god. I also like some of the guys that worked on consoles like jeff van dyck, and robert prince for PC as well!

      and the chiptune scene is still alive and kickin' with things like 8 bit peoples [], plopbox [], and artists like anamanaguchi, bitshifter, shawn phase/temp sound solutions, etc.

      hubbard did a lot more work on c64, which is why you won't hear much from the younger crowd, but he did some great stuff on other platforms, thankfully the pc [which is where I first encountered his works]
  • To all the people who quarrel about which game had better music, just listen to this. Seriously, just listen to it: []

    The opening for that game set a standard I have yet to hear another game beat, though NWN 2 gets close: []

  • Anyone who doesn't think Okami had AWESOME music is deaf.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard