Gamer’s Delight: Cal Performances hosts Video Games Live + UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra
By Lou Fancher
Millennial gamers who cut their teeth on classic video games won’t want to miss the next Cal Performances event: Video Games Live is a show that combines larger-than-life video gaming, theatrical lighting, and a soundtrack brought to you by the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra.
Video Games Live Creator and Executive Producer Tommy Tallarico will host this megaplex intersection of digital, electronic, and live action. Games displayed on an enormous screen will include Final Fantasy, Zelda, Pokémon, Overwatch, Kingdom Hearts, Undertale, Okami, MegaMan, Metroid, and Earthworm Jim. Pre- and post-show highlights have the audience participate in a costume contest and the opportunity to meet composers and designers active in the gaming industry. A highlight for Pokemon fans of a certain age: Jason Paige, the original Pokémon television program theme song singer (“I want to be the very best…”) is also featured.
East Bay-based violinist Anna Fang, 18, is the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra’s Assistant Concert Master. Although not a gamer, she writes in an email that she has been doing her homework for the show. “I never had any video game consoles growing up. I really enjoyed watching video game play-throughs to make up for my lack of personal ability to play, though.”
Fang and other BSO musicians take pleasure from the show’s nontraditional classical music repertoire. From the atmospheric, grandiose background tracks accompanying Shadow of the Colossus or Uncharted 2 to the highly recognizable, cinematic style of Pokemon or Mario, the Video Live setlist is a departure from typical symphony fare. Fang finds abrupt shifts in tempi or supersized dynamics intriguing, not off-putting, when compared to traditional repertoire. “(An) interesting difference is the exaggeration of certain instruments, such as a glissando on a string instrument or a blare on a tuba, to better fit the animated character of a video game theme.”
For the ultimate gamer curious about what happens behind the scenes at a Video Live concert, a V.I.P. package provides a backstage tour and opportunity to meet the performers. Like comic-con and other character-driven events, memories, photos and selfies of spectacular costumes are obvious takeaways, as might be a request for violin lessons from a future Vivaldi-video gamer wanna be. The gamer audience, often young 20-somethings, might not otherwise attend a classical music concert. Growing future patrons and inspiring young people to study music or consider becoming composers is clearly an important aspect of the collaboration.