JOPLIN, Mo. —
There was a lot to be excited about when the list of Grammy nominations was released earlier this month. I heartily approve of nods to Mumford and Sons, Fun, Frank Ocean and the Black Keys. I'm sure Jeremiah Tucker is already writing his column about Jack White getting recognized for his solo efforts.
But the thing that geeks me out the most happens in the category for Best Score Soundtrack. Austin Wintory's score for "Journey" is up against some tough competition, including Hans Zimmer's "The Dark Knight Rises," Howard Shore's "Hugo" and John Williams' "Tintin."
If you're scanning your brain trying to remember when "Journey" was in theaters and what it sounded like, quit now, for a couple of reasons:
- If "Journey" was a movie, it would be the kind of movie that would never be played at Northstar Cinema (Joplin Electric Theater would pick it up, though. Bless 'em.)
- "Journey" is not a movie. It's a video game.
Let that second bullet point sink in. "Journey" is a video game, and its music is up there with Zimmer, Shore and Williams.
It's a nomination that Wired.com rightly labeled as "a big win for video game music." And it furthers the notion that video games can be considered as much art as movies, TV shows and other visual storytelling media.
Two years ago I wrote about "Flower," a game for Playstation 3 by That Game Company, and how it was evidence that Roger Ebert was an idiot for saying that video games could never be art. That game's experience is greatly enhanced by the music of Vincent Diamante.
Strong music plays a role in so many of my favorite video games:
- Jerry Berlongieri composed some intricate, dark techno tracks for "Descent 3" and its expansion, "Mercenary." I can't tell you how many stories I've written and pages I've laid out with his music in my ears.
- Though I haven't played "Tomb Raider" in more than 10 years, I can remember most of the notes from the soundtrack by Martin Iveson and Nathan McCree.
- From the original music by Daniel Pemberton to the stellar playlist assembled by programmers at Media Molecule, "Little Big Planet" features song after song of great music. That game franchise introduced me to Passion Pit, Cafe Tecuba, Ladytron, Royksopp, The Go! Team and Toumani Diabate.
- Part of the reason I've spent so many hours in "Skyrim" is because of the haunting, Celtic and medieval chords that play as I explore a vast, beautiful world. Jeremy Soule composed unforgettable anthems, from a soft ballad played in a tavern to the game's strong opening, "Dovahkiin!"
- "Portal 2" features a soundtrack by Mike Morasky that beautifully captures the mood of an abandoned research facility through different eras. The National's "Exile Villify" makes a haunting cameo. And Jonathan Coulton, who wrote the end-game anthem "Still Alive" in the original "Portal," writes another winner with "Want You Gone."
I could go on with all the games that have been greatly enhanced by great music: "God of War," "Shadow of the Colossus," "Bioshock," "Uncharted." I could even get retro: Music for "Legend of Zelda," "Mega Man," "Blaster Master," "Metroid" and "Sonic the Hedgehog" are just as awesome, if not more impressive because of those systems' technological limitations.
For a video game's music to get put on the same level as "Dark Knight" and "Hugo" is quite an achievement and a legitimization of the art behind video games. Gamers have long known that there is much more to games than button-mashing action and fantasy violence.
Great stories are being told in these games. Compelling experiences are happening, and art is unfolding in 1080p, guided by dual analog joysticks. Grab some popcorn and enjoy the show Ñ one level at a time.