Video Games Live is a very successful and inspiring concept – how did you come up with the idea with Jack Wall (the musical composer of Myst
and Splinter Cell: Pandora
You know what, even since I was a little kid and I had my Intellivision, Atari and Commodore 64 I would put on little ‘video game concerts’ for the neighbourhood kids! (Laughs). I would tape record all my favourite game music, splice it onto one mix-tape and set it all up in the garage while playing air-guitar using a broomstick, with all my favourite games playing on a TV behind me. Video Games Live is just an extension of that I suppose.
Jack and I really saw how significant the change in video game music has been in recent years, I mean even since I started my career – I literally saw it transform from bleeps and bloops to using live orchestras. Particularly in the last seven years, you have scores like Halo
and Metal Gear Solid
, which really challenge Hollywood film soundtracks.
We really had two goals in mind with Video Games Live. Our first was to prove – not to gamers, they already know – but to the world how significant video games have become and how culturally and artistically relevant they are. They are pieces of art, whether in itself or the characters or music or storyline. That’s why we set it up the way we did – VGL isn’t just about the music, but about all the other elements of games.
We wanted to create an experience that anyone can enjoy, be they into video games or not – in fact a lot of the responses we get are from adults who have never played a game that see the show and tell us ‘Wow, we never knew video games were this powerful an art form, we now see why our kids are so into them, thank you’. They understand it and we can present it in a form that they can appreciate.
Really the other reason for Video Games Live was to establish a live orchestral concert, and to really showcase the art of classical and symphony music as well. You know, this kind of music is generally seen as uncool or something for people over 40 years old. And what we want to do is to generate some interest in it, by making it more relevant to the younger generation – a lot of people can’t connect with orchestral music, there’s no significance there for them. With VGL we’ve taken a lot of the things many people can connect with, like the rock and roll lighting and interactive showpieces and given the orchestra a video game flavour so the audience can really appreciate the music itself as well.
Speaking of the lighting, has it been difficult to synchronise the mood and atmosphere of each piece to reflect the kind of game you are representing?
Yeah, definitely. We started organising Video Games Live in 2002, and we didn’t actually manage to play our first concert until the Hollywood Bowl in 2005. It’s taken about three years to create the show, design it and obtain all the licenses from the different companies.
Most of the videos in the show I put together myself, and we don’t always pick the biggest selling games but, as long as the visuals and music are top notch, we can generally work a great experience into it. Whenever people ask me how I pick which games are represented in the show, I always say that I just pick my favourite ones! (Laughs)
But once we even pick the right game to use, we might decide to stick with all the best compositions in the entire franchise and perform a montage of themes from the game series – so for example Myst
might have four or five versions out so we literally go through hours and hours of music. Then we approach the composers, and in some cases the original developers as well to see how we can best represent the game.
After that I simply go through and make a video that matches the music. Sometimes we work directly with the developers and producers, like the Metal Gear Solid
video, which was created by myself working with Hideo Kojima. Then I sit with our lighting designer and we watch all the videos and just start programming every single light – every colour, every hue, making sure it’s all absolutely perfect.