Published on June 11th, 2012 | by Phoenix2
Video Games Live: A Truly Unique Experience
One of the things I pride myself on most is that I think of myself as something of a Renaissance man. I have a lot of diverse and weird interests, but one of my biggest passions is music. So, naturally, when two of my friends invited me to a concert which combined my interest in video games with my passion for music, I jumped at the chance to go. I saw Video Games Live (VGL) at the Strathmore in Maryland this April, and it was an experience like no other.
Basically, Video Games Live consists of a touring band that teams up with local symphony orchestras and performs a two and a half-hour extravaganza. The concerts incorporate many different genres of both music and games into their repertoire. The setlists include modern games such as Civilization IV, World of Warcraft, God of War, and Kingdom Hearts, which you’d expect given that these games have professionally-recorded and often orchestral soundtracks. But the concert also includes classic games from the eras where “video game music” consisted of beeps, bloops, or 8- or 16-bit sounds. The concert always starts off with a “classic games medley,” where the first notes played are the beeps of Pong. Other classic game series that VGL pays homage to are Metroid (YES!), Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, Street Fighter, and Portal 2.
VGL was the brainchild of video game composer Tommy Tallarico (fun fact: Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, is Tallarico’s cousin), who teamed up with conductor Jack Wall to create the concert. Tallarico wanted to combine the elegance of a symphony with the energy of a rock concert, with the interactivity of video games. VGL does this successfully, as it is less of a concert and more of an event. The music is only one part of the experience. A fantastic light show surrounds the audience, and scenes from the games whose music is being performed are projected on a giant screen at the front of the stage. There are even chances for audience participation. During the concert I saw, two audience members were invited to play Frogger on the big screen while the orchestra accompanied them, and tailored their music to what was happening in the game. VGL also has an extensive pre-show, where concertgoers can play video games on sophisticated screens, or game companies can advertise. There are also contests such as a Guitar Hero contest (where the winner gets to perform with the orchestra, trying to obtain a target score), and a costume contest.
The great thing about VGL is that even if you’ve never played any of the games (which, in my case, is true of a good amount of the games that I listed above), you can still enjoy the show. I hope events like VGL will bring more people out to hear the symphony, and will help people gain appreciation for video games as an art form. If you have any interest in video games or music, I highly recommend you check out a show. If you can’t, VGL sells a DVD and two albums, of which this is one.