Video Games Score Music Hits Songs Catch On In Mainstream
BEHIND THE GAMES
Some of the artists writing music for video games:Black Eyed Peas: The Los Angeles hip-pop group remixed some of their hits for "The Urbz: Sims in the City," a life simulation game where characters work at sushi bars and get tattoos to build reputations. The group even sings in Simlish, the gibberish language used in the Sims world.Snoop Dogg: The rap star put his twist on The Doors' "Riders on the Storm" in an exclusive song for the racing game "Need for Speed Underground 2" and appears as a playable character in the cop story "True Crime: Streets of LA."Mark Snow: Famed for his "X Files" TV theme, the composer wrote music for the new Sony PlayStation 2 anti-terrorist espionage and stealth game "Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain."Danny Elfman: The Grammy-winning film composer, whose work can be heard in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," wrote the theme for Microsoft Xbox's "Fable," an action role-playing game in which player choices determine whether the main character turns good or evil.Michael Giacchino: The composer turned ears in Hollywood with his sweeping score for the World War II combat simulation game "Medal of Honor." He has since written music for "The Incredibles" movie and the reinvented Space Mountain ride at Disneyland. Next, he's doing music for the movie "Mission: Impossible III."Paul Oakenfold: The dance DJ and remixer contributed tunes to the James Bond game "GoldenEye: Rogue Agent." His "Beautiful Goal" theme for Electronic Arts' "FIFA 2005" was licensed to Major League Soccer for use in TV ads.Papoose: The underground rapper making waves on New York mix tapes is releasing "Born to Win" exclusively on "Madden NFL 06." The top-selling football game's 20 other tracks include hip-hoppers of the likes of Jay-Z signee Sam Scarfo, Dr. Dre-affiliated Atlanta rapper Stat Quo, and Kanye West protege Bump J.Godsmack: Frontman Sully Erna was "fanatical" about writing a song for "Madden," according to Electronic Arts top music executive Steve Schnur. The group's "Bring It On" is among the hard-rock songs on the game, which also features Hot Hot Heat, The All-American Rejects, Foo Fighters and Disturbed.
LOS ANGELES -- Violinists playing sweetly beneath her, the video-game heroine Lara Croft has two guns blazing and the full attention of 10,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl.
The animated star of "Tomb Raider" games, which have collectively sold more than 30 million copies, unflinchingly braves explosions on a giant TV screen that hangs, incongruously, above the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra.
At the bizarre yet beautiful debut performance of Video Games Live, the sotto voce murmurs of the "Tomb Raider" theme give way to choir-assisted crescendos then to more crowd-pleasing music and images from other games.
The spectacle, which promoters say will be performed by similarly topflight orchestras in more than 15 cities in coming months, is just the latest sign that songs written for the interactive gaming world are blasting out of consoles and into the mainstream.
Orchestra concerts of music from "Final Fantasy" games -- a long-running role-playing series with a cult-like following -- have sold out venues nationwide.
Video games with their rising budgets are attracting serious composing talent. Scoring for traditional television may soon enough be playing second fiddle.
Award-winning film composers such as Danny Elfman of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and Howard Shore of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy have written music for games.
Shore recently completed work on the upcoming "SUN," an online role-playing game set in a medieval world of emperors and monsters.
And hit singles such as Green Day's "American Idiot" were heard on the hugely popular "Madden NFL Football" games even before they got radio play. In fact, 14 of the 21 songs in the game's latest version, released last Tuesday, are previously unreleased. The new version features music from Foo Fighters, Rev. Run of Run-DMC fame and others.
It's all a sonic leap from the blips and beeps of "Pong" and "Asteroids" -- so memorably annoying they have come to define game audio for decades.
"The music in video games is basically maturing to the spot where it can live outside" of home systems, said Chuck Doud, music director for Sony Computer Entertainment.
Like movie scores, game soundtracks seldom top the charts, though a few have been big sellers.
The score from "Halo 2," an Xbox game that pits players against alien invaders, has sold about 100,000 copies since its release late last year. Sales of the "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" soundtrack have reached 47,000 copies since being released in 2003, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Video-game music's growing popularity is being driven by budgets that can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, spending that has climbed along with industry revenue.
In the United States, video-game industry sales exceed movie box-office receipts. "Halo 2" generated more than $125 million in sales on its first day.
Composer Tommy Tallarico, co-creator of Video Games Live, says his music budget was about $300,000 for "Advent Rising" -- the first game in a planned intergalactic trilogy with dialogue and stories by science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card.
Orchestras and choirs recorded Tallarico's 13th-century Italian opera-inspired songs on a stage at the Paramount Pictures lot.
"In movies, you write to picture, you write to the scene, and it's considered background music," Tallarico said. "I consider us foreground music."
Indeed, the audio component of games is becoming an increasingly interactive part of the story.
Instead of switching to entirely new music when a character, say, enters an eerie courtyard, the emphasis subtly shifts to a previously soft-playing track, using different instruments to ratchet up the tension.
The effect, Doud says, is that "all of a sudden it'll seem a lot more intense, but you can't really tell how it got there."
Maybe, just maybe, it's enough to keep people listening after spending dozens of hours playing a single game.
"That's what you're striving for, is to have the player hold off muting the music," said Garry Schyman, who composed an hour of 1950s sci-fi movie-style music for the alien invader game "Destroy All Humans!"