A while ago, I had the pleasure to be an honourable member of my school’s band as a violinist during their end-of-year concert. (A.k.a. I attended a couple of their rehearsals and despite my lack of practice, I still went and risked the overall tone quality of the band for my personal enjoyement). Our complete repertoire consisted of video game music, and although there were some shaky parts, it was all in all an inspiring performance. Because not only was the music really, really good, this concert also compelled me to completely revisit the generalized idea I had made of video games.
I’ve played my fair share of video games during my “gaming” years. When I first received a DS the Christmas of when I was in Grade 3, I was introduced to a game named Horsez. Back then, I wasn’t such a grammar freak, so thankfully I wasn’t turned off by the shortage of proper spelling. It was basically a game where you took care of a horse, but there were some instructions I never really understood so I never got past the first level. Soon though, my two best friends introduced me to the wonderful world of Pokémon. I was blessed with Pokémon Diamond for my birthday in March, and the game, as well as the TV show, quickly became part of my daily routine. Now, Pokémon Diamond was definitely a one-up from Horsez, as it was a well-structured journey where the characters (so basically the Pokémons) developed as you played further on into the game. But, my video game days never went past Pokémon, and at the end of Grade 4 I bid farewell to my very abrupt one and a half years of gaming.
Even with my stated passion for Pokémon, I never thought of video games as much of an art. Books, yes. Movies, yes. Paintings, yes. But video games? I didn’t see much art in blasting enemies with armed artillary or gaining XP points for you Piplup by summiting it to a battle. Additionally, all the guys I knew only talked about COD and GTA and FIFA, games that were seemingly made just to pass time, to entertain. I wasn’t opposed to video games, but I didn’t necessarily have the best generalized impression of them.
That all changed the night of the concert. You see, our band conductor is very passionate about music. And also very passionate about video games. So before each piece we played, he explained to the audience the video game the music came from. He explained to the crowd the story of the game, the emotional impact it had on the player, the messages it tried to convey. Already, I was surprised at all the different meaningful elements a video game could contain. Then, we proceeded to play the piece. You must remember that I hadn’t practiced with the band much, so that night was the first time I heard most of the pieces played with a full band. The result blew me away.
As the notes steadily weaved into a developing melody, my brain slowly started noticing the beauty of a video game. Journey was the first one we tackled. Our conductor explained to the crowd that it was a video game that could be played in one sitting. You start in a desert, with no instructions whatsoever. Basically, you have to figure out the purpose of the game yourself, whilst at the same time discovering this mysterious, whimsical world you were dropped in. Then after our conductor concluded with his explanation, we played Nascence, the first piece from Journey’s soundtrack. It starts with a rich, mellow cello solo playing a languishing melody, which is steadily passed on to different instruments. The delicate strings and the soft harp serves as accompaniment, further concentrating the mysterious, enchanting mood. And during that magical moment when the music filled up the room, our conductor’s explanation came alive in me, and made me realize just how deep a video game could impact you.
So yes, that night it was the music that unveiled to me a whole new side of video games, and that in turn lead me to new discoveries. I learned that video games had plots, morals, lessons. It makes you think, makes you see, makes you feel. Even if not all video games benefit your well being (say, the extremely violent ones), many, many of them have a goal to inspire its players, to offer them a reason in the form of art. And so even if I have long passed the prime of my gaming years, I will never seem to stop learning to appreciate this incredible piece of innovative expression.
I also love this piece from the video game Okami.