Celebration

Video Games Live Logo

I am not generally a particularly snappy dresser. When I told my roommate I'd be wearing a shirt and tie to Video Games Live, he looked at me as if I was crazy. It wasn't like I was going to a funeral or a job interview, right? This was just a concert with video game music. He and the rest of my friends were planning on simply going in shorts and a t-shirt.

That just didn't sit well with me. Now don't get me wrong, on most days I dress for comfort over style. I like my jeans and a graphic tee as much as the next neckbearded slob. Yet we were going to a concert. Not the "everyone bang your head and throw the horns" type, either. A fancy symphony with a talented choir, everyone dressed up in suits within a fancy concert hall. This was a concert concert, and it deserved more respect than your average game convention or, y'know, any other night where some kind of pants are mandatory.

So I made a compromise and put on what I call the "back in black." It's really no different from what I usually wear, only everything is an article of black clothing. Jeans, shirt, even topped off with a black newsboy cap to add a smidge of class while slightly differentiating myself from stage crew. Still, I couldn't help but think that video games deserved better than this. Just because the music was from video games, did that justify going in jeans and a t-shirt? If we're going to demand that games be treated with respect, as more than toys, then shouldn't we be the ones to treat it respectfully first?

Then I realized I wasn't going to a concert. I was going to a party.

I'd say the moment of clarity struck when my roommate, holding his Sonic the Hedgehog hat high above his head, was chosen to go up on stage for a little game. What followed was playful banter as Tommy Tallarico, founder of Video Games Live, placed the hat on conductor Emmanuel Fratianni, pocketed my roommate's phone and wallet, and then let him step side to side across the stage in a physical game of Space Invaders.

Don't worry, my roommate got his wallet and phone back.

Were it not for that ridiculous hat, my roommate never would have gone up on stage. It's what allowed him to stand out. I was worried it would be a negative thing, but it turned out to be a positive.

It was a reminder of something I already should have known about games. Something I was aware of every time I went from playing a Super Mario to a Halo to The Last of Us. In all the discussions about whether videogames are art, whether they're making a statement, or how childish their writing is — many discussions in which I am a vocal participant — we often forget that mysterious ingredient that draws us to games in the first place.

Games are a form of play, and one that we shouldn't be ashamed of. While we may grow out of Sesame Street and Transformers, there is no outgrowing the excellent design of Super Mario Bros. or engagement of Sonic the Hedgehog. A well designed game, no matter how stupid its premise or juvenile its story, can engage with the user and provide hours of fun. It's why we remember our grandparents or parents buying the cheap knock-off platformers for our younger birthdays. Even before we could describe the abstract nature of what makes something fun, we knew the difference.

I was viewing Video Games Live completely wrong. It wasn't about making video games respectable, dressing them up to convince those in boardrooms or ivory towers — imagined purveyors of Cultural Legitimacy — that we're ready to sit at the grown-up table. If they are indeed looking down on us, it's because they don't get it and are looking at it all wrong.

Video Games Live casts aside the notion of the grown-up table and invites everyone to share the experience together. The audience is quiet as the epic, symphonic theme to Skyrim thunders through the concert hall. The crowd shouts in unison the Team Rocket motto to denounce the evils of truth and love (and then to extend their reach to the stars above). Several horns are thrown as Tallarico himself wailed the Halo theme on guitar.

Video Games Live reminded me one of the first reasons I came to love video games. No matter the story, the genre, the setting or the target audience, a good game was and is a good game. As companies like Nintendo, Capcom, Square and Konami had proven, there's no language barrier for fun and good design. There is no entertainment medium as accessible to as wide an audience as video games are.

For a brief moment I felt ashamed of myself for forgetting something so simple and fundamental. Then I began to sing along with the crowd the theme to Tetris.

Comments

How do you sing Tetris? Nice article.

This is why GWJ rolls with blazers. We classy.

RolandofGilead wrote:

How do you sing Tetris? Nice article.

Oh, I think it goes something like this...

Great article, ccesarano. Hope I too get the chance to attend a Video Games Live concert some day!

Amoebic wrote:

This is why GWJ rolls with blazers. We classy.

QFT - when we went and saw Video Game Orchestra, I was rocking a Mario t-shirt under a blazer.

McIrishJihad wrote:
Amoebic wrote:

This is why GWJ rolls with blazers. We classy.

QFT - when we went and saw Video Game Orchestra, I was rocking a Mario t-shirt under a blazer.

I'm now envisioning having GWJ offer a blazer to commemorate GWJer Front Pagers as they hit some arbitrary number of articles/podcasts.

It's one thing to try to dress a form up to try for some kind of cultural validation... and then there's Video Games Live.

I missed Play! when it came to my city, so when I heard Video Games Live was coming, I was ready to go—before a quick peek at the website, with its footage of lasers, aforementioned wailing guitar solos, and a man rappelling from the ceiling. VGL made me embarrassed about the public face of the gaming monoculture. I do think the choice of expression demands certain forms of respect. For PAX, that sort of thing is appropriate, awesome even. For a symphony hall, I think Play! (from what I can tell) provides that respect, to the medium and the venue, which VGL barfs all over. And I'm a perpetual shorts and t-shirt guy.

wordsmythe wrote:
McIrishJihad wrote:
Amoebic wrote:

This is why GWJ rolls with blazers. We classy.

QFT - when we went and saw Video Game Orchestra, I was rocking a Mario t-shirt under a blazer.

I'm now envisioning having GWJ offer a blazer to commemorate GWJer Front Pagers as they hit some arbitrary number of articles/podcasts.

I would not be against getting a free blazer.

Gravey wrote:

It's one thing to try to dress a form up to try for some kind of cultural validation... and then there's Video Games Live.

I missed Play! when it came to my city, so when I heard Video Games Live was coming, I was ready to go—before a quick peek at the website, with its footage of lasers, aforementioned wailing guitar solos, and a man rappelling from the ceiling. VGL made me embarrassed about the public face of the gaming monoculture. I do think the choice of expression demands certain forms of respect. For PAX, that sort of thing is appropriate, awesome even. For a symphony hall, I think Play! (from what I can tell) provides that respect, to the medium and the venue, which VGL barfs all over. And I'm a perpetual shorts and t-shirt guy.

I think this misses the point of VGL, then. It's not trying to select music that fits the image of what belongs in a symphony hall, it's grabbing music from a variety of games, be if Sonic, Mario, Skyrim, or Final Fantasy. I used the word "celebration" intentionally, because a bunch of people in tuxedos and dresses sipping wine and chewing cheese doesn't come across as celebrating.

To word it negatively, a dumb person can still play and enjoy a smart game, and a smart person can still play and enjoy a dumb game. There is nothing more open than that, and you just don't get it as much in other entertainment. I feel like Video Games Live is a perfect representation of that.

If someone wants to have a serious-face symphony, sure, I'll dress up for that. But I like to literally have something for everyone.

wordsmythe wrote:
McIrishJihad wrote:
Amoebic wrote:

This is why GWJ rolls with blazers. We classy.

QFT - when we went and saw Video Game Orchestra, I was rocking a Mario t-shirt under a blazer.

I'm now envisioning having GWJ offer a blazer to commemorate GWJer Front Pagers as they hit some arbitrary number of articles/podcasts.

Kind of like "The Jacket" you get if you win The Masters?

A nice solid grey blazer with a little GWJ Stan embroidered on the left breast?

ccesarano wrote:

a bunch of people in tuxedos and dresses sipping wine and chewing cheese doesn't come across as celebrating.

Cheese is always a celebration. So sayeth my ancestors from the frozen lands beyond Geneva Lake.

McIrishJihad wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
McIrishJihad wrote:
Amoebic wrote:

This is why GWJ rolls with blazers. We classy.

QFT - when we went and saw Video Game Orchestra, I was rocking a Mario t-shirt under a blazer.

I'm now envisioning having GWJ offer a blazer to commemorate GWJer Front Pagers as they hit some arbitrary number of articles/podcasts.

Kind of like "The Jacket" you get if you win The Masters?

A nice solid grey blazer with a little GWJ Stan embroidered on the left breast?

I now believe we need an official volunteer tailor.

The first time I got to see VGL in person, I wasn´t sure what to expect...more of the serious performance akin to an opera or more like a rock concert...what I found was neither (thank goodness), instead there was a collection of people cellebrating video games and the their music, which is the way it should be.

Play! was meant to expand peoples perception of video game music and show it off to those who tend to dismiss it, whereas VGL is a celebration of video games and their music.

The last time VGL was in town they did a rendition of a song from God of War where Laura, aka Flute Link, did the vocals...I had chills down my spine. No one can tell me that itś ¨just video game music¨ after that.