Friday marked the end of the 2006 Game Developers
Conference, but some attendees had one more treat in store before the
GDC closed its doors on 2006. Developers and fans alike gathered at the
San Jose Civic Auditorium that night for an event filled with music
from several games, in a special concert titled Video Games Live played
by Symphony Silicon Valley.
Video game music is no stranger to the GDC, which devotes
an entire lecture track to audio and hosts several panels and
roundtables discussing the impact of music in games. Last year's GDC
saw the "Dear Friends" concert kick-off the conference (also accompanied by Symphony Silicon Valley)...
This year's concert was once again played before a sold-out audience,
but it had an even more diverse focus on games. Hosted by game composer
and event organizer Tommy Tallarico and conducted by co-organizer Jack
Wall, the concert gathered together some of the most memorable game
themes since the birth of the video game industry. Old classics like
the main themes of Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda were played
right alongside newer pieces like a medley from the Myst series and the
Halo theme song.
The performance got under way with a medley of classic
themes, ranging the entire spectrum from arcade games like Frogger,
Galaga, Outrun, Dragon's Lair, and Space Age, to old console games like
Duck Hunt, Mike Tyson's Punch Out! and Ghosts 'n' Goblins. The audience
applauded for the games it recognized, with the loudest showing of
appreciation for classics like Tetris.
From there, the concert transitioned into different
segments, sometimes showing a pretaped video clip from the composer or
designer introducing his piece and at other times using the actual
voice talents used to sing the original piece.
The effort to include games in all aspects of the concert
was visible throughout the performance, with many songs performed with
cutscenes from the games projected onto a screen behind the orchestra
and with a coordinated laser light show.
The organizers also chose to focus on what makes games
unique--their interactive nature. After the intermission, two people
randomly chosen from the audience played Frogger with the orchestra
adjusting the music according to how well they were doing. "This is how
really rich people play their video games, I guess," joked Tallarico,
drawing a laugh from the audience, and a burst of applause.
The night had many other noteworthy moments, which covered
several emotions. Here, in no particular order, are some of the
Tallarico prefaced the Medal of Honor piece, saying,
"Instead of showing actual game footage, we thought it would be cool
and unique to play actual World War II footage." This choice led to a
very somber mood throughout the piece, as news flashes documented the
beginning of the war up to the final celebratory parades after victory
and then ended with rows upon row of crosses in cemeteries. In the
background, a haunting trumpet solo rose above the orchestra.
The same idea was used with Kingdom Hearts, where
instead of videos from the game, assorted clips from Disney movies were
used, displaying each character that was used in Kingdom Hearts. The
montage concluded with a shot from Steamboat Willy, the first cartoon starring Mickey Mouse.
During the Metal Gear Solid performance, Solid Snake came on stage
in costume, seen in silhouette. After he sneaked around on stage,
search lights similar to the ones in the game caught him in their
glare, and the audience laughed appreciatively as an exclamation mark
appeared above his head, a clear reference to an in-game feature.
Martin Leung, better known as the Video Game Pianist,
performed a Final Fantasy medley, blending songs from many of the games
in the Final Fantasy series. Selections included "To Zanarkand" from
Final Fantasy X, "Aeris' Theme" and "One Winged Angel" from Final
Fantasy VII, "Eyes on Me" from Final Fantasy VIII, "Terra's Theme" from
Final Fantasy VI, and "Melodies of Life" from Final Fantasy IX. Though
his performance wasn't flawless, he drew a standing ovation from the
audience for his live solo performance.
Tallarico concluded the night with a look to the future.
"The video game industry is growing massively right now, and we're
always looking for talented people. Hopefully next year I'll see some
of you over at the GDC. You can learn more in four days at GDC than
four years of college." As the audience chuckled, he added, "I probably
shouldn't have said that."
And then the audience filed out, with the notes of the main theme of Halo still echoing in their heads.