How Video Games Live Ohio Warmed My Gamer Heart of Stone

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When anything fun becomes your job, it becomes inherently less fun, right? Logic says yes, but Video Games Live Ohio was an awe-inspiring reminder to me of how joyful gaming is, and why I’m on the right path!

Jesse Baker, the owner of Arcade Legacy (check them out), a family arcade open for a number of years now in Cincinnati, recently told me what I “have one of the most enjoyable jobs [he] can think of” as a guy who uses videogames to entertain at special events for a living.

I still love the world of videogames and how they make us feel and draw us like nothing else. Through running an international Street Fighter tournament for 7 years, I saw first-hand the unique way that videogames unite, excite and bring people closer together.

I get to see the excitement of kids and adults as they sit down for Minecraft, Smash Bros., Super Mario, Sonic, NBA2K, etc. and share in everyone’s favorite stories of what gaming has brought to life and friendships. It’s the best.

But it also means I don’t get to play — or really feel like playing — videogames myself too much. I was crazy about 8-, 16- and 32-bit gaming especially, and I played and practiced fighting games, Dance Dance Revolution, and of course everything as a kid, you’ve thought that was going to be my job. (Naturally, all the games I learned best you still can’t play for a living!)

So now that my focus is on figuring out what it means to run a business through gaming (there’s no manual on this), my innate desire to actually play has been drastically dimmed.

It’s through music how that long-lost joy of experiencing videogaming adventure & battle (and sure — romance!) come alive for me. My girlfriend (now fiance) has learned to accept that catchy bleeps and bloops of 8-bit and the synthesized orchestras of the SEGA CD are here to stay on our car rides.

Through original soundtracks (and through new Overclocked ReMixes) every day at my desk I can race through the hills of Mobius, halt nuclear holocaust, save the galaxy, and hang out with Mr. Saturn .

When I was little, I was the only kid taping videogame music (and getting made fun of for it) with my 2-tape cassette deck. Growing up it was so awesome to learn there were millions like me who deeply connected to not just playing videogames but the music, and how it’s a big that special connection.

It’s easy to forget that childlike adoration for the worlds I remember so fondly when I’m focused on planning the venue layout for the Cleveland Gaming Expo, planning a games list for a bar mitzvah (kids always want the same games),  and in meetings for the International Special Events Society.

Video Games Live is one of the only experiences that immediately helps me remember that passion for gaming and gives me an innocent, ear-to-ear smile of pure happiness.

The Toledo show on Jan. 29, 2016 was very special to me — it was the third VGL show I’ve been to in 10 years, but the first performed with a city’s main orchestra. The other shows were fabulous, but experiencing VGL in a space designed acoustically for a professional orchestra was an unparalleled way to bask in the warmth of the strings, the power of the opera singers, and the proximity to the musicians.

Video Games Live Ohio Games Done Legit Tommy Tallarico Chris Hatala
Tommy Tallarico, founder of VGL and composer of I believe hundreds of videogames, is a visionary and gentleman! We are trying to bring VGL home to Cleveland, where we have a world-famous orchestra!

In of itself, seeing an orchestra live is an amazing experience. It surrounds us and binds us, like the Force or something. (I’m a journalist, not a music critic, so that’s as best a description as you’ll get from me.) The music fills the room and connects with your soul like nothing coming out of a speaker will.

So combine that rich experience with beloved music like nothing that the symphony hall has even seen. And with bright, frenetic visuals seeing Sonic race through lush grasslands, rich orchestra filling the air, with golden rings projected overhead. Like, watching-Star-Wars-in-the-theater fun. That’s the best way I can describe what I feel during Video Games Live. (Again)

For those who don’t know, videogame music in the ’80s and ’90s had to be awesome. Why? Because you would throw your Nintendo Entertainment System out the window after about 10 minutes if the music sucked. There was almost no memory or instrumentation was allocated to classic videogames, so once games evolved beyond having just sound effects, the music had to do a lot with very little.

 

Not many of us could replay levels in Super Mario over and over if the sounds the machine emitted grated on you like nails on a chalkboard. The music and sound design had to be simple but effective — on the NES you have I think 5 or 6 simultaneous instruments, including sound effects — and necessity is the mother of invention.

Bearing in mind the humble origins of such incredibly fun, catchy and well-arranged videogame music makes it all the more grand when we see it performed by dozens of professional musicians live on stage.

Video Games Live Ohio finally forced my lady to finally admit that, yes, this is “real” music.

If anyone in your life that doesn’t “get” how videogames have changed culture (and — like Holocaust deniers and Windows phone users — these people do still exist) take them to Video Games Live.

Author’s/Editor’s Note: Even though Chris passionately champions that “videogames” is one word for the health and growth of the hobby and industry, we defer to using it as two in the name of any proper noun 🙂

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