Video games live is an immersive concert event that features music from the most popular video games of all time. It took the stage Wednesday night at the Centre for Performing Arts and brought drama, humor, and an unexpectedly rich emotional experience to an enthusiastic audience carried forward through video game after video game by an orchestra, a concert pianist, and an stimulating mixture of culture and art.
A young opera singer with a shatteringly beautiful voice, Martin Leung, a pianist whose hands fly flawlessly across the keys, a flutist with a wry sense of humor make appearances, as the music shifts from rock concert to symphony to computer beeps and bloops.
It's hard at times during the performance to know what to make of the blend: video games and classical music and electric guitar and outstanding operatic vocals. Meanwhile, the show progresses beyond its surprises and evolves into a carefully scored overview of video games. Popular games appear on the screen: Mario, Zelda, Halo, Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Interactive Frogger and many more. This is a celebration of video games as a true art form, and whether you buy that or not, it's clear that producer Tommy Tallarico does Tallarico emceed and played electric guitar during the show, like a true guitar hero.
Tommy Tallarico (below)
Five critics with different attitudes towards video games attended the concert for the Vancouver Observer. Each had a different view of the event.
The nine year old critic loved the experience most. He had played nearly all the games on the video screen and commented excitedly about them throughout the concert. He reported feeling bored during the piano pieces. Otherwise, he was completely enthralled by every part of the show, from the music to the Interactive Frogger contest, during which two audience members competed on the stage to get the electronic frog into its resting place. He also loved conductor Emmanuel Fratianni.
Emmanuel Fratianni (below)
The fourteen year old found the combination of music and games enjoyable. He got most engaged when World of Warcraft scenes appeared on the screen. "That's the game I used to play on my computer," he said, as if he were running into a few old friends he had been out of touch with for some years.
The mother of a teenage boy who spends a great deal of time on his X-box said the games on the screen lacked plot. The figures were epic, but there wasn't enough going on for her. She reasoned that players project stories onto the figures, but had a hard time doing it herself. Carrie Saxifrage writes:
For this reviewer, parent of a gamer, the show was like watching evolution in action. Sonic the Hedgehog began as a smiley little creature hopping up grassy steppes and, toward the end, was a styled punk with a giant truck running him down. It made me think of a friends comment that he had "no need for escalating novelty to stimulate a jaded nervous system".... and wonder about the nervous systems of our kids.
Our youngest reviewer's favourite part was the humorous "vs" segments (Grand Theft Auto v Frogger, Mortal Combat vs Donkey Kong) in which it was quick work and a lot of overkill for more recent video protagonists to destroy their forbears. The live music was the antidote - impressive talent on all counts and an audience highly attuned to what they were hearing, often breaking into applause after one bar of music. The other antidote was the sense of community - people who perhaps spend a lot of time at home all out together enjoying a good show and hearing the conductor's plea to "keep music live."
Carrie's partner, Barry, said he enjoyed seeing games he had played in the past and found the music wonderful.
I loved the fact that the games playing out on the screen kept two classical music-resistant boys enthralled. They games absorbed them, while the music affected them. I thought this was brilliant. Video games live is put on by the video games industry "to help encourage the culture and the art that video games have become," the video games live website says. I've struggled for years, as I've watched my sons get drawn into video games and I approached the concert as a chance to learn more about both their games. But what I got Wednesday night was a window into their fantasy worlds...violent, romantic and magical.