By John Gaudiosi
Video game composers are finally getting the same respect as their Hollywood counterparts. As part of the new streamlined GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy has added video games to the descriptors of four awards, giving them equal billing with film and television. And that’s just the beginning of what could be in store for video game composers, who have previously been all but ignored by one of the music industry’s most prestigious awards.
“I think this could be viewed as a first step in the direction of video games getting their own category,” said Bill Freimuth, Vice President, Awards, The Recording Academy. “Many people from the game community have been asking us to create a special category for games over the years, but the main reason we haven’t is because we have received very few entries from game publishers.”
While the game industry releases hundreds of new games every year like Electronic Arts’ Dragon Age 2 and THQ’s Homefront, many of which feature original orchestral scores, the lack of video games even being mentioned within the GRAMMY Award categories until now has kept many game companies from submitting music. In the past, video games were inferred under the “other visual media” descriptor, while film and television were clearly spelled out.
“This acknowledges that film, TV and games can stand side by side and be independently recognised,” said Steve Schnur, Worldwide Executive, Music, Electronic Arts. “Hopefully, this will create an even playing field when people vote next year. I expect there to be a tidal wave of submissions from the game industry.”
Schnur, who is a voting member of the Academy, believes video game music was never given an equal shot by voting members because of the past omission. While games will still compete with film and television, at least he sees it being an equal playing field today.
With so many Hollywood composers delving into the video game space over the years, Oscar-winning composers like Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, Inception) and Michael Giacchino (Cars 2, Up!) have joined Oscar-nominated John Debney (Iron Man 2, Predators) and Christopher Lennertz (Hop, Horrible Bosses) to lobby for this recognition.
“The composers and artists working in this field are consistently delivering at the highest level in entertainment,” said Lennertz, whose Hop is currently the top movie in the U.S. “Because of the nature of video games, the musical score has an even greater responsibility to the drama: many times adding the subtext and emotional backstory that would be delivered by dialogue in a traditional film script. More than ever, a game score needs to not only set the mood and pace of an adventure, but also add stakes and drama to an ever evolving interactive storyline.”
Video game composer Inon Zur (Crysis, Fallout: New Vegas) said that game music is often more creative, colourful, emotional and, in many cases, it has a better musical structure than a lot of contemporary film music because it does not follow the picture.
“Games today are a huge part of the entertainment industry and the music scores being created for them are very unique sounding in many cases compared to film,” said Zur. “I believe that music for games has to take its own place from other genres to gain respect by the mainstream audience and the GRAMMY category will help achieve this.”
Over the past five years, Schnur helped spearhead a movement within the game industry that saw publishers like Sony Computer Entertainment America, Activision, and THQ join together to encourage the Academy to give video game music equal respect.
“The recognition of video games within the GRAMMY Awards is not just significantly important for the interactive entertainment medium, but it shows that the Academy recognises games are important for the future growth of their audience,” added Schnur.
Freimuth said that the Academy realises that young people today are learning about music for the first time more and more through video games. In addition, he realises that games are driving sales for music, in general.
“The Academy and the entire music industry recognise the value of video game music and what an interesting and unique art form it is,” added Freimuth. “It’s been proven more and more each year with top name artists, top composers and leading orchestras working in this medium.”
In many ways, video games have helped save the music industry, which was shortsighted in the digital world and needed Apple to bail them out. But before the iPod, games were the driving force to get new bands and new music to the young demographic. Even today, games are playing a role in introducing young audiences to orchestral scores, which can be enjoyed in a game and then downloaded from iTunes.com. The GRAMMY Awards will only help game composers reach a larger audience.
The four awards that were amended by the Academy were:
The Music for Visual Media (Motion, Television, Video Game Music, or Other Visual Media)
Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media (Motion, Television, Video Game Music, or Other Visual Media)
Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media (Motion, Television, Video Game Music, or Other Visual Media)
Best Song Written for Visual Media (Motion, Television, Video Game Music, or Other Visual Media)