Video Games Live: Volume One Review

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Video Games Live: Volume One Publisher: EMI Classics

Video Games Live is a project that started in 2002 with the goal of showing the world the cultural significance of video games and acknowledging the art and majesty of the music that goes into making those games memorable experiences. Video Games Live had its first performance on July 6, 2005, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Since then, the Video Games Live performance series has toured the world, and has now released a collection of some of the best-known tunes from video and computer gaming as a CD entitled Video Games Live: Volume One.

Kyle Ackerman

Video Games Live: Volume One includes eleven tracks of simply amazing music created for some of the best-known games in history, such as World of Warcraft, Tron, Myst and Halo. Any fan of game music, (or even just games or just music) could easily identify a few favorites that aren't on here, but there's no denying the superb quality of the music on this disc.

Many (but by no means all) of these pieces have been orchestrated and performed with some of the world's top orchestras and vocalists to bring the game experience to music fans everywhere as richly as possible. So the question is, on what basis should these pieces be reviewed? As game music, the contents of the Video Games Live: Volume One disc are some of the best of the best. But as music... they're just good.

The common handicap for all the music from Video Games Live: Volume One, as brilliantly conceived and performed as the individual pieces may be, is that they are one part of a holistic experience, sundered from the rest and presented naked. Actually attending a Video Games Live show is a bit different – it's a spectacle with video footage, synchronized lighting (and sometimes events as silly as a cosplay contest). But I find the music in isolation is best when it reminds me of a happy play experience. Not as a stand-alone piece of music.

Many of the pieces found in the compilation are dynamically triggered by events in the games, or suffer from the same problem as film scores – that they are meant to accompany visual and action sequences to make those sequences even more powerful. If any of these pieces were so powerful that they made you want to drop everything else and listen, they'd be doing the game they came in a disservice. The Civilization IV Medley might be an exception, since it did make me stop and listen when I first played the game – but that one's turn-based, so it's OK to stop everything for a moment.

Every one of these tracks made me fondly remember particular gaming experiences, but when played for a group of music aficionado friends (who weren't gamers), most of the tracks elicited a "that's pretty good, let's listen to something else" response. And for me, listening outside of the experience of the live concert spectacle made me want to put most of these tracks on in the background while I played something.

So, if you're a gamer with fond memories of any of the tracks listed at the end of this review, you'll probably relive some happy times while listening to the Video Games Live: Volume One music. But if you aren't familiar with the games, give this compilation a miss. As it turns out, video game music is culturally significant art... when it's part of a culturally significant video game. But some of the choices that make these pieces the best of their ilk make them something less when purchased for $15 and presented outside the context of a thematically linked, interactive gaming experience.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 10, 2008 4:49 AM.

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