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01-01-2004, 03:13 PM
Video game music gains recognition
Tue Dec 30,11:40 AM ET Add Top Stories - Chicago Tribune to My Yahoo!

By Eric Gwinn Tribune staff reporter

Once an afterthought in the production process, video game soundtracks increasingly use original music to reach new listeners who blur traditional entertainment boundaries.

\"Record companies are realizing that this is the new radio,\" says Greg O\'Connor-Read, founder of Music4Games.com and an agent for video game composers.

In addition to licensing existing tunes, record companies also are commissioning new works for games. Big names have written music for games now on the shelves for the holiday season. Hip-hop performer Snoop Dogg created three original songs for \"True Crime: Streets of L.A.\" Rock icon Peter Gabriel contributed a track for \"Uru: Ages Beyond Myst,\" released Nov. 11, and will write an original composition for the next, as-yet-untitled, \"Myst\" puzzle game.

\"The acts themselves play video games, so they\'re a lot more willing to get their songs in the game,\" says Scott Lee, product manager for \"Project Gotham Racing 2.\" That game\'s soundtrack uses prerecorded music and deejay banter from real radio stations, including Chicago\'s WPWX-FM 92.3 and WKQX-FM 101.1.

\"It\'s no secret that the record industry is in deep trouble,\" said Randy Winograd of HSI, a Los Angeles production house for TV ads, music videos and game music. \"Consumers would rather download than pay $15 for a CD, leaving the record industry scrambling for revenue. How do they monetize music? License to video games.\"

Typical music budgets for video game makers have tripled over the last three years to $150,000 from $50,000, according to Tommy Tallarico, president of Game Audio Network Guild, or G.A.N.G., an organization that focuses on improving music in interactive media.

G.A.N.G. also has persuaded U.S. musicians\' unions to lower rates charged for working on video games, leading to more American musicians performing on such titles as the recently released \"Medal of Honor: Rising Sun\" and \"Call of Duty.\"

Asia and Europe have recognized the power of video game soundtracks for years. Symphonic versions of video game music fill stores in Japan. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts recently added an awards category for video game music. In the United States, game soundtracks are slowly showing up on the shelves of large department stores and music stores.

As programmers push video chips to new limits -- with realistically moving humans and mood-creating, natural-looking shadows -- game companies are turning to soundtracks to further separate themselves from their competitors.

For instance, players who preordered the comic book-style spy game \"XIII,\" from UbiSoft, received the jazzy soundtrack on a separate CD. Electronic Arts is hyping its \"NBA Live\" hip-hop soundtrack with a Web site devoted to playing music taken from the game. EA also is pushing its \"SSX 3\" snowboarding soundtrack with its own CD.

Sales aren\'t earth-shattering yet: Since its release in February 2002, \"SSX Tricky\" has sold 1,800 soundtrack units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But in a sign that buyers may be catching on, the sequel \"SSX 3\" already has sold 1,800 units since its release Sept. 30.

The benchmark for soundtracks is the seven-CD effort from \"Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,\" released a year ago. Tempting buyers with secret game codes and \'80s tunes ranging from Ozzy Osbourne\'s \"Bark at the Moon\" to Grand Master Flash\'s \"The Message,\" the \"Vice City\" soundtrack has found its audience.

CD sales for game tunes

Each \"Vice City\" CD offers real tunes from the fictional radio stations in the seminal drive-anywhere-do-anything game that has sold 10.5 million copies. The most popular CD, \"V-Rock,\" sold 42,300 copies of music from Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Osbourne. Together, the CDs totaled 142,200 units sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Game audio has always been important, from the ominous boom-boop-boom-boop of \"Asteroids\" to the blippy fanfares of the \"Legend of Zelda\" franchise that have inspired a new wave of garage bands.

A few years back, the original next-generation consoles hit the market with improved audio chips that allowed game publishers to stick adrenaline-pumping CD-quality tunes into games. On the PlayStation, Namco quickly took advantage with \"Ridge Racer\" and its soundtrack of hard-core dance music that you could replace with your own CDs while you raced. But it was Psygnosis\' \"Wipeout\" series of PlayStation games -- in which players raced sleek hovercraft to thumping dance beats of Fatboy Slim, Future Sound of London and more -- that signaled the future, said Greg O\'Connor-Read, whose Web site aims to raise the profile of game-music composers, some of whom he represents as an agent.

\"The `Wipeout\' series wasn\'t about the music but the club culture crossover experience,\" he said. In the United Kingdom, club kids got hooked on the game after hearing that its soundtrack was studded with tracks they had heard on the dance floor.

\"That was the game that made the PSOne the console of choice for casual games,\" said O\'Connor-Read.

Led by figures such as Tallarico, who founded the Game Audio Network Guild, game music composers are working for more recognition, including an Oscars (news - web sites) category.

Third of experience

\"In video games, audio is one-third of the experience -- visuals, audio and game play -- but is a third of the budget put into audio? Of course not, especially four or five years ago,\" Tallarico said.

Underscoring how far things seemed to have progressed, Tallarico said he is trying to produce a 2 1/2-hour symphonic concert featuring majestic game music, pyrotechnics and actors portraying video game characters rappelling from the sky.

All this descended from the humble bloops of \"Pong.\"

Two decades ago, when composers had only scratchy audio chips to work with, some of the most memorable game music was created.

But as Tallarico put it, \"If you had your choice to listen to Beethoven\'s 9th [Symphony] on the GameBoy or by the London Symphony Orchestra, which would you prefer? Have you ever heard the Mario Bros. theme done by a 90-piece orchestra? It\'s beautiful.

\"As we grew up, we wanted rock, orchestras, alternative [versions of video game music]. That\'s what we listen to now. We don\'t listen to kiddie music anymore.\"


http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=2027&ncid=2027&e=1&u=/chitrib_ts/20031230/ts_chicagotrib/videogamemusicgainsrecognition (\"http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=2027&ncid=2027&e=1&u=/chitrib_ts/20031230/ts_chicagotrib/videogamemusicgainsrecognition\")

Joris de Man
01-01-2004, 06:43 PM

Glad to see that I\'m not one of the only ones who doesn\'t view the use of popmusic in games as necessarily a good idea.
It always irks me (and this article only confirms) that the media or \'general public\' only seems to take game music seriously when \'established\' pop artists are involved.
Does the video game music need more licensed tracks to be properly recognized as an art form?
What about the work of people like Michael Giacchino, Bill Brown or even Harry Gregson Williams?
Ah well,,,,,,,,,


01-01-2004, 07:26 PM
Its just the sad reality. Most kids that i have spoken to, prefer to turn off game music and play cds of popular artist they enjoy.

So what do we do ???

Of course, elaborate cinematic games will always have a complementary score.

But .......

01-02-2004, 02:24 PM
Have you ever tried PLAYING mario Bros against the orchestrated versions of the tunes?

It actually doesn\'t make for a better experience.

01-02-2004, 02:35 PM
Originally posted by SWL:
Its just the sad reality. Most kids that i have spoken to, prefer to turn off game music and play cds of popular artist they enjoy.
<font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">And they should if we\'re talking Gameboy here.

01-02-2004, 04:36 PM
The same thing that has been happening with movie music has been happening with game music, and vicey versy. It is expected. It is not a matter of exclusion, but a matter of inclusion. Guess we will watch as things develope.

01-03-2004, 02:35 AM
It\'s not about getting the public serious, it\'s about getting the public\'s attention. Heck, it was my idea to get Peter in on URU. Not because I thought it would get the audience to take my music any more serious, but because they know who PG is. It brings a bit more attention to the music, and if anyhting, perks up their ears a bit to the rest of the score. That\'s what happened in our case, and I think that I ended up with quite a few people that appreciated the score because they actually listened to it. Thanks in part to having Peter in the game. We only used one tune, it isn\'t really steering the creative process at all.
I\'m behind it 100%. We all benefit. Hopefully more games are sold, and more people are in tune with the music. Nothing wrong there.
We are recognized as an art form with or without licensed artists. There are icons in the game industry that are respected just as you have stated. What else are you looking for. If anything, in my opinion, the fact that we can bring an established artist in shows that even the producers are getting it. They see the importance of the music. Don\'t feel threatened. Peter Gabriel is yet to take my job.
images/icons/wink.gif The only thing that gets me a bit is the amount he gets per tune as opposed to what I get, but hey, he\'s paid his dues, is very talented and has the name.

01-09-2004, 12:01 AM
Thanks SWL for making the tread. Nice read.

I think it is positive for game music to be growing into \"real\" music. I loved the music of games from NES, then SNES... etc..ect.. Over the years I grew with the music sounding better and better. Back in the day they used basic midi. Now we have full orchestra\'s play game scores. It\'s a natural progression. And i welcome it.

However the down side is this. Years ago I believe I could have gained work in this industry easier than what i beleieve i can now. This is only my opinion as i\'m only starting out in this industry. But I believe it\'s a fair call. More is expected. However at least for big projects, they are now willing to pay a lot better.

One downside I see if they make a game music Oscars is that more of the big Hollywood film composers will find this industry more appealing. Thus taking away anyone elses chances of getting the big jobs. On the flip side everyone already secure in the indusry I\'m sure would like Oscars.

As a gamer, I welcome the progression for game scores to be as good as the biggest Hollywood film blockbusters. However as a composer, it\'s both good and bad at the same time.

Per Lichtman
01-19-2004, 11:43 AM
I suggest that you take a look at the popularity of sites like VGMix (\"http://www.vgmix.com\") and OC Remix (\"http://remix.overclocked.org\") to see how many people are doing arrangements of video game music based on their enthusiasm for it and the fact that their is an audience for it. VGMix is on featuring a small selection now because they had to revamp the site a few months ago but you should be able to get some idea. Also, SoundtrackCentral.com (\"http://www.altpop.com/stc/\") is full of reviews that people keep making because of their interest in video game music.

One of the first CDs I ever wanted as a kid was an import Super Nintendo soundtrack. Almost all my friends at college have listened to original game musis or arranged albums and loved it. There is a big audience for video game/computer game music and it\'s one of the most powerful influences on youg composers such myself and my friend Jeff in the local symphony. Don\'t lose faith in the listening public.

Nino Mojo
02-15-2004, 01:39 PM
\"And they should if we\'re talking Gameboy here.\"
(about turning off the game audio while playing)

This is kind of condescending. Maybe you didn\'t listen to the right tunes...

Joseph Burrell
02-15-2004, 10:15 PM
Unfortunately, the only videogame soundtracks flying off the shelves are products of modern pop culture (cough, cough, crap). I don\'t care a lot for bad soundfonts in games anymore, but a great composition shines through no matter what. Unfortunately, I see the day when most games feature soundtracks by D.J. Mike or whoever\'s popular at the moment and the orchestration takes a back seat with the fantasy games. Not many kids I know want to hear violins and cellos in Splinter Cell, which is sad. When I hear a good composition that really moves me I know that this is what God intended music to be. Nothing invokes more feeling than a well designed piece of orchestration. Of course, with the advent of the Playstation and videogames really becoming accepted as a media form, it was bound to happen eventually. Nothing is safe from pop culture. It\'s sickening. I wish I could see the good in this, but if you aren\'t the guy that scores the Final Fantasy series or are really established, I see this market getting harder for just anyone to step into (at least with the name brand companies.) As MTV takes over, the market share for orchestration will dwindle, mark my words.

Sorry, I\'m done ranting. images/icons/wink.gif

02-16-2004, 03:21 AM
Originally posted by Nino Mojo:
\"And they should if we\'re talking Gameboy here.\"
(about turning off the game audio while playing)

This is kind of condescending. Maybe you didn\'t listen to the right tunes... <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">It\'s not the tunes. It\'s their sound! Blip, blip, tu tu tuuuuu, blip, blipblip. Condescending? I\'m sorry if my remark offended you so much. I meant it in the most lighthearted way.

Alex Cremers

Nino Mojo
02-16-2004, 08:25 AM

No problems at all images/icons/smile.gif Really.

But you know, I really love these sounds, I believe in \"chip sounds\" as a true art form, that can be mixed with our traditionnal and less traditionnal instruments and sound very well. (that\'s at least what I try to do.. But other will make it well before me images/icons/smile.gif )