thoughts on music, design and literature

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Game Developer's Conference 2008 Collected Notes

I spent all of last week at the Game Developer's Conference, the annual meeting of the minds for the video game industry. It's a fun (but exhausting) week, and this was my third year attending. At last year's conference, I was nominated for a GANG Award for "Baba Yetu" (ultimately wound up winning two awards, actually) and I spent the entire conference trying to generate some sort of interest in my music because of that. This year, already being a somewhat familiar face, and being repped for video games by Soundelux DMG, I had a number of meetings set up for me even before I attended the conference, with companies like Sony, Disney and Atari.

Since we're now onto my third year of being a part of the video game community, I have to admit that I'm starting to feel really at home amongst the other composers there. A big part of that is because of Video Games Live. As usual, VGL did a concert at the end of the conference (at the Nob Hill Masonic Center, with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and Choir--presumably a pickup band), and as usual, all the composers spent two hours afterwards signing autographs and meeting with fans. It's through all these Meet-And-Greets, lectures at GDC, and other events, though, that I'm really starting to get chummy with a lot of the other game composers. They're all really nice, genuine guys--low on ego, high on creativity...a genuine pleasure to know! I'm proud to call myself one of them.

As usual I bumped into Gerard Marino, of God Of War fame. He won the Rookie Of The Year award the year before I did. Laurie Robinson (Advent Rising) and I hung out again....she and her husband Emmanuel Fratianni are familiar faces from all the VGL concerts. Mike Reagan (God Of War, Conan) and his wife Savina Ciamarella were everywhere; Savina in particular has been a saving grace to the video game community because of her work in getting the American Federation of Musicians to have a contract for video game scores.

I got a chance to talk with Marty O'Donnell a bit--you probably know him from his beautiful Halo music, based on Gregorian chants. And then there were the Blizzard guys...Russell Brower and Jason Hayes. Jason and I have been trying to get lunch for ages now; he's working on an album as well, and I want to know more about it. I pointed out to him once that, because of his World of Warcraft music, day in and day out, he's probably the most heard single composer in the history of the world. Truly.

Last week's VGL concert featured a few new segments. Richard Jacques (Headhunter) came out and played a jazz piano arrangement of the music to Outrun that sizzled. And of course, my buddy Martin Leung, the Video Game Pianist (pictured here) played medleys from Final Fantasy, Chrono Cross and Super Mario Brothers. John Debney, primarily a film composer (Passion Of The Christ, Sin City), came out and conducted his music from Lair. It was great meeting him after the concert, as I think he does great work.

I was also hanging out with Will Littlejohn and Kyle Johnsons of the Guitar Hero camp afterwards....my game designer friend Soren Johnson (Civilization IV, Spore) sat next to them at the Meet-And-Greet. Kyle turned to us and said "You know what's funny is that during our lunch hour, we all put Guitar Hero away and play Civ IV!" To which Soren replied, "That's funny because during our lunch breaks we used to put Civ IV away and play Guitar Hero!" That little exchange made my day.

Most importantly, however, I have to give kudos to Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall for everything they've done for game composers. Really, I can't stress this enough: those guys are two personal heroes of mine. Not only did they found GANG and work tirelessly to build this wonderfully friendly community, but they also created the Video Games Live concerts and have been instrumental in bringing game composers out from behind the scenes....myself included. All the happy memories I have of last week's conference were due to the work of these two. I'll say it again: those two are my heroes.

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