'Video Games Live' brings gaming's most memorable music to life
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17
Where: Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Tickets: $40-$55; 576-2626, pikespeakcenter.com
Video games are to Generation Xers what television was to Baby Boomers – a medium that helped shape a group’s cultural identity.
So it’s no surprise that a show like “Video Games Live,” which comes to the Pikes Peak Center this weekend, is popular the world over. It’s the greatest video game music of all time played by a live orchestra and choir, completely synchronized to video, with automated state-of-the-art lighting and special effects. The stage-show production even includes interactive elements in which people are brought up on stage to play a video game while the orchestra changes the music in real time.
“I like to describe ‘Video Games Live’ as having the power and emotion of a symphony orchestra combined with the energy and excitement of a rock concert and mixing that together with the interactivity, cutting-edge visuals, technology and fun that video games provide,” says co-creator Tommy Tallarico.
Here Tallarico talks about the broad appeal of video game music, why “Video Games Live” is even fun for non-gamers and whether or not video games are art.
The Gazette: How did you come up with the concept for "Video Games Live?"
Tommy Tallarico: I’ve been a video game composer for over 23 years. My goal in creating “Video Games Live” was that I wanted to prove to the world how culturally significant and artistic video games have become. I didn’t want to just put on a symphony concert for hardcore gamers, I wanted to do a show. Not necessarily even a concert, but a complete celebration of the video game industry. The way we designed the show was with everyone in mind.
Gazette: How do you choose the games that are represented during a show? How often are games rotated in or out?
Tallarico: We’ve created over 100 segments for “Video Games Live” since we started in 2002. Yet we can only perform about 18–20 per night. In fact, we’ve never played the same set list twice. Lately I’ve just been asking people on our official Facebook page to tell us what they want to hear. Each show has its own Events page. So if you’re interested in hearing something, please let us know and it will probably wind up in the show.
Gazette: Because of the title of the show, some might think “Video Games Live” is only for those with a passion for gaming. What will non-gamers and families enjoy about "VGL"?
Tallarico: You don’t have to know a thing about video games in order to come out to the show and have a greater appreciation for video games in general and specifically game music. Most of the letters and emails we get after a performance are from non-gamers.
Parallel to that, it’s also ushering in a whole new generation to come and appreciate a symphony. We’ll get letters from parents after the show telling us that they took their 8-year-old daughter to the show and she wants to start taking violin lessons so she can learn and play the music in our show. The same thing happened to me over 30 years ago when I saw the “Rocky” and “Star Wars” movies. For the first time, I really paid attention to symphonic music, which in turn got me hooked on the masters like Beethoven and Mozart. I believe pop culture can have very positive influences on other -- and more classic -- forms of art. Video games are one of them.
Gazette: What is it about music from video games that resonates with people long after they've played a title? Is it nostalgia or something else?
Tallarico: Many people become emotionally attached to certain games and systems. These memories are part of the special magic that you’ll see occurring throughout our performances each night. When people hear and see some of the segments they are taken back to their childhood and more innocent times. People constantly tell us that they will get very emotional and even cry during our show because of this. And if that isn’t art, then I don’t know what is.
But beyond that, I think that when people are playing a game they become that character and the music then becomes the soundtrack of their lives. So I feel that there is a lot more of an emotional connection to game music, than, say, film or television music. where you are just passively watching someone else’s story unfold. In a game, you are the story. Of course, it also helps that when people are playing a game, the music is constantly being blasted into your brain for hours and hours while you play, much different than most current types of media.
Gazette: You travel the world playing video game music. Most people would assume “Video Games Live” would only appeal to Japanese or American audiences but that's not the case is it?
Tallarico: Not at all. Video Games Live has been touring all over the world for over seven years to sold out venues in countries from Korea to Mexico, Chile and Brazil, Scotland to Malaysia, France to Singapore, Portugal to China, Spain to Taiwan, Ireland to New Zealand, Canada to Dubai. It's rare for any music or musical show to reach (so many) and enjoy so much success around the world in so many different places and cultures. I think it says a lot about the industry and why video games have become the entertainment of choice for the 21st century.
Gazette: I know I already said this but it bears repeating, you travel the WORLD playing video game music. Are you the luckiest guy in the world or what?
Tallarico: My two greatest loves growing up were always video games and music. When I was around 9 or 10 years old, I would take my dad’s cassette deck and go down to the local arcades and pizza parlors to record all my favorite video game sounds and music. Then I would come home and record my favorite music from my Apple II, Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Intellivision, etc. I would splice the tape together and invite my neighborhood friends over. I would charge them five cents while I played back the cassette and jumped up in front of the television with my favorite video games on in the background and would grab my guitar and play along with the cassette. I guess those were some of the first "Video Game" concerts. It’s such a dream come true for me to be doing it 30 years later on stages like the Hollywood Bowl with 150 musicians in the L.A. Philharmonic. So, to answer your question as it pertains to me, I would have to answer with a big yes.
Gazette: You've had a long and distinguished career in the gaming and music industry so I think you're the perfect person to answer this question: Are video games art?
Tallarico: Lets put it this way, if Beethoven were alive today, he’d be a video game composer.