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Thursday, January 22, 2004
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Music in video games a new art

Eugene Chu is a senior political science major from Arlington.

A December Chicago Tribune story explored an up-and-coming format of music: the video game soundtrack. While the graphics and game play of modern video games and their systems have evolved since “Pac-Man,” the music of the modern video game has also grown to new levels. Despite the advances in video games and their music, American culture still snubs its artistic beauty. While American motion picture soundtracks sometimes receive awards, video game soundtracks usually get the cold shoulder. American culture should give more recognition to the video game soundtrack along with the motion picture soundtrack.

Many people stereotypically believe that video game music is simply the “bleep-bloop” sounds of “Pong.” On the contrary, just as the motion picture soundtrack has evolved, so has the modern day video game soundtrack. The game soundtrack for “True Crime: Streets of L.A.” contains three original songs from hip-hop musician Snoop Dogg. Harry Gregson-Williams, composer of the films “The Rock” and “Enemy of the State,” composed the soundtrack for the video game “Metal Gear Solid 2.” Though the early video games contained only “bleep-bloop,” today’s video games contain music from platinum-selling rappers and Hollywood composers.

Despite the advances in technology and art, American culture barely acknowledges video game music. America’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and even MTV’s People’s Choice Awards don’t recognize anything to do with video games. A visit to the Virgin Megastore in Grapevine revealed only a small shelf of video game music compared to a whole aisle of movie soundtracks. Admittedly the disproportionate supply could be attributed to the lack of marketability for video game soundtracks. Though this could also be attributed to cultural indifference to a growing art form.

Overseas, other cultures are embracing the art of video game soundtracks. The British Academy of Television and Film Arts recently added an awards category for the video game soundtrack. Concerts with video game music in Japan are becoming the same as concerts with motion picture music in the United States. While it is not the most important music format in history, it is an art form that Europe and Asia are beginning to recognize and appreciate.
Before people continue to snub video game music, they should listen to some. One excellent piece is “Liberi Fatali” from the video game Final Fantasy VIII. As an example of how the video game soundtrack has evolved, the opera style piece uses full orchestral music with a choir singing in Latin. The School of Music will probably not play it and may even laugh at the idea of artistic video game music. Nevertheless, this video game piece has been played in orchestral concerts in Japan and perhaps, in the far future, it will be played in an orchestral concert here in the United States.