“Blip . . . blop” went the primitive soundtrack to Pong, the seminal arcade game. Now the symphonic majesty of today’s computer game music is to be recognised at Britain’s leading awards for composers.
The Ivor Novello awards, won by luminaries including Sir Paul McCartney and Sir John Tavener, will introduce a new category this year — best original video game score.
The category recognises the increasing sophistication of game soundtracks and their importance as a new revenue stream for the music industry.
Such is the demand to hear the pumping backdrop to classics such as Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft and Sonic the Hedgehog, performed by a live symphony orchestra, that a touring show, Video Games Live, has sold 500,000 tickets.
Nobuo Uematsu, composer of the stirring Final Fantasy soundtracks, became the first “superstar” of video game music and has been the subject of a tribute album.
The Novello committee has concluded that the compositional skills required for an effective games soundtrack are equivalent to those for an original film or television score. Mark Fishlock, a member of the Ivors committee, said: “The Ivors has always sought to reflect the ever-changing world of songwriting and composing. The video games market has matured beyond recognition and big budget orchestral scores are regularly being commissioned.
Writing music for games also requires a number of specialist skills compared with conventional film scoring, such as non-linear and multi-layered composition.”
Richard Jacques, a London-based composer who wrote the soundtrack to the hit Headhunter game and orchestrates the Video Games Live concerts, said: “This shows gaming music is coming of age. A good score has the same quality as a film soundtrack. But it’s very different because in games you are creating a musical dynamic that pre-empts the story and reacts to what the characters are doing.”With record sales in decline as a consequence of illegal filesharing, exposure on a game soundtrack is becoming vital for artists.
Thirty Seconds to Mars, the band fronted by the actor Jared Leto, agreed a deal to place the title track from their latest album on the soundtrack to Dragon Age: Origins, weeks before the record’s release.
The Novello committee is seeking entries the new category before the awards are held in May. The score to any game commercially released last year is eligible.
Some of my best musical experiences have come from a video game (You knew Sephiroth was going to be a ballache to defeat when a fucking digital choir starts singing his name over and over...). In fact, video game music is responsible for me being into music in the first place.
I welcome this; despite the fact that no-one has ever, or will ever give a shit about the Ivor Novello awards.