The chat with the maestro of Video Games Live includes comparison between the games and films differ in their treatment of music. Tommy Tallarico also offers up thoughts on why video game music is specially situated to make lasting impression on players. (See part one.)
Have there been times when you’ve been playing a game and it has been like, “Okay, this music works. I want it?”
One of the segments we just added in is a game that no one really ever bought. It’s a recent game that wasn’t really popular. “Afrika,” I don’t if you played that one.
I didn’t play it.
Some people didn’t like it — it’s a photojournalist kind of thing, but I loved the game. And the music is just incredible; that’s in our show now. In fact, in San Diego, we did the world premiere of “End of Nations,” which is this big military RTS game, that had a big splash, won a lot of Editors’ Choice awards at E3 a few weeks ago. That one is not coming out till the end of the year but has some great music by the composer who did all the “Command & Conquer” music, Frank Klepacki.
C&C is another one of those franchises with a rabid fan base, so they’ll be stoked. And getting kind of, I guess, at the core dynamic that drives the show, do you feel like there is a special relationship between music and gameplay?
Oh, absolutely! In fact, more so than film and television. The music for film and television — it’s called background music or incidental music. And the reason is that you need to relate those films and television stories through dialog. So, there’s a lot of talking in films and television. So the music is always secondary, unless you get the big title theme or the big chase scene or whatever, then the music is out front.
Well, in video games, I like to call what we do foreground music. Not background, but foreground music. It’s the music that drives the interactivity and the design, that’s what drives video games. Yes, there is story, yes, there is dialog, but mostly it’s about the action. Viewers may get a few big action scenes watching a film. But you get that big action scene in every level of a video game. And the music reflects that.
And the other difference is that, obviously our stuff is interactive as well, so it’s changing, it’s morphing. It’s almost as if the player is the conductor sometimes, where it’s changing and morphing. But then I will give you the biggest difference, is that, let’s compare, again, let’s compare to films, as we always do, and say, I can see the latest — watch a movie like ‘Avatar’ and you see it in the theater and for two hours, you heard two hours of music, most of which was probably under dialog, right?
And then maybe six months later you buy the Blu-ray or the DVD, you take it home, you watch it again, and again, you get this same experience. Now, I will also ask you this, hum me the theme to “Avatar,” how does that go?
I have no idea.
Exactly! Because there was a lot of talking over it, there was a lot of dialog, and it had its place, and they had some big action scenes, and you heard the music, but for the most part, you heard the entire score, probably about four hours this year, 80% of which was being talked over.
Now, let’s take a game like “Halo”. Now, hum me the melody from “Halo”? Boom! Took you two seconds, you knew it, right? And people are playing games like ‘Halo’ and ‘World of Warcraft’ 20, 30 hours a week, and the music is out front, and in your face, and driving the action and the interactivity.
So again, when you compare video games to films, it’s not even in the same league. And I would go as far as saying, and if you can think of — if you can call me — call me a liar, please let me know, because I can’t think of anything else, I would go on record as saying that no time ever in the history of the world has more music been played more often than in video games.
And you are just saying about sheer volume of the amount of video games?
The amount of time that people listen. People who play 30, 40 hours of “Warcraft” a week, from months and months on end, I mean that’s the equivalent of taking your favorite recording, say, “Led Zeppelin IV,” or Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” or your favorite Beatles, like “White Album”… That would be like putting that on repeat for 40 hours. And I mean, I am sure in the 60s people were freaking out on LSD and doing that.
Overall as an industry, no one hears more music at one time than during a video game, I would imagine. Maybe I’m wrong, but where else are people listening to 40 hours of music of the same thing a week for months and months at a time?