Friday, January 27, 2012

Field Trip: Video Games Live 2011

Field trip: Dark Link goes to Video Games Live
(Salt Lake City, UT: December 30, 2011)
Written by: Philip

For Christmas my wife got me just about every triple-A title on the PS3 I could ask for. I really couldn’t believe it because in Christmases and birthdays past I considered it a success to get any game. But what really put the icing on the cake was when I looked deeper into the stocking and found two tickets to Video Games Live in Salt Lake City. I had never been before but have wanted to for years.

Mr. and Mrs. Dark Link
For those of you unfamiliar with the event, Video Games Live is a symphony/orchestra concert with a video/light show that performs pieces from video game favorites. It was created in 2005 by Tommy Tallarico who has been writing music and soundtracks for video games for over 20 years. It started with just one performance in Los Angeles and now they travel using local and professional musicians to tour everywhere from Tokyo to London to Sao Paulo. You can check out more at
We arrived at the building where the Utah Symphony Orchestra plays and it was beautiful. It’s a huge auditorium with an entire glass front and entry way that allows you to see the LDS Temple Square at night which is an incredible sight.
He finally invested all the money he made mowing grandma's lawn into something worthwhile.
It’s really hard to explain the crowd at VGL . So imagine what it would look like if random, slightly overweight video game characters, and JRPG enthusiasts crashed your prom. Actually, that’s exactly what it looks like. Everything from formal dress and tux to Pikachu hoodies were there. I was actually pretty impressed at some of the costumes. And there were some where I’m sure the person thought I was laughing in awe at their costume, but I wasn’t, I was laughing at them. While I appreciate the effort to show love for your favorite character, more than a few wives should have asked their husbands, ”You’re wearing that?” before they headed out the door, PSP in hand.
The one on the right claimed to be dressed as Nathan Drake.... ok.... I guess.
He claimed to be Soap. Whether he meant McTavish, or hand soap, I'm still not sure.
We took our seats on the first balcony front row on the left side of the stage. As excited as I was, I was skeptical if it would be worth it to shell out dough to go and listen to video game covers done by violinists. But my fears were unfounded. It was quite an amazing experience. The level of talent the performers had was incredible. Trained opera singers were up there putting their heart in to something that was written to be played by some kid in mom’s basement. But you wouldn’t have known that. The selection of pieces they played was a good mix of the most popular franchises to some of the more niche games. But there is just something about having a live choir there to sing with the professional orchestra and make the theme to God of War or Zelda sound like it never has before. My wife is borderline anti-video games and even she thought the theme to World of Warcraft was one of the prettiest and emotional works of music. My favorite throughout the night was definitely Ken and Guile’s Themes to Street Fighter II.
I asked him to show me his sword attacks, but it wasn't his turn yet.
His girlfriend wouldn't come with him to the event. Imaginary girls can be so stubborn sometimes.
This isn’t a mindless geek affair. The creators of the show are very conscious of the level of talent that goes into the original creations. They even Skype live or have present on stage the original composers to introduce their music and pay homage to their contribution to the culture. An unexpected highlight was getting to see Ralph Baer, the creator of video games.
It's time for Mega Man to start shopping in the Teen section of WalMart. Those blue shorts don't fit like they used to.
This much cute in one place should be illegal.
VGL is nerd heaven, but luckily it doesn’t ostracize those on the outside of the “All your base are belong to us” or “Leeeeroy Jenkinssss” jokes. It creates an environment where the two worlds can meet as if to say, “See world? Video games really can be art!” I know that happened to my wife and me. I had always tried to explain to her that gaming to me wasn’t just about mindless attempts at trying to rack up a high score, but rather it was the experience. It was the cinematics and the story, and especially the music. And while walking out of the theater that night she looked at me and said, “I think I get what you mean.”
Totally inaccurate... Chell did NOT wear glasses. Geez, did she even PLAY the game?
Now an important question to answer still is, “Was it worth the money?” The price point of $36.00 (cheapest seats) is a little steep, and if you take a date you better change dinner plans to McD’s or Hot Pockets. It’s a good idea for a gift or a special occasion for someone who loves video games. Truth be told though it is such a unique experience you’ve gotta see it at least once (and only once because the set list barely changed from the 2008 show). I’ve seen the DVD version of the show and it doesn’t even compare to actually being there. Though finding a performance anywhere near your town can be a little tricky.

Here’s the set list from the night and some videos that some local fans shot:
Classics (Pong, Frogger, Donkey Kong, etc.)
Street Fighter II (Ken and Guile Themes)
Advent Rising (both the game and music were created in Salt Lake City)
God of War Theme
Halo Suite
World of Warcraft Suite
Tetris Opera
Sonic the Hedgehog Theme
Super Mario Medley
Final Fantasy VII – One Winged Angel
Chrono Cross/Trigger
The Legend of Zelda Tribute
Guitar Hero – Foo Fighters – Pretenders (the orchestra played the song as a kid played the game on the projector)
Portal – Still Alive

Halo Suite

Portal, Still Alive
Guitar Hero: Foo Fighters, Pretenders

World of Warcraft Suite

Street Fighter II, Guile and Ken Theme

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