The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Grammys: Stop playing games with us

3 min read
By COLE MASAITIS On Feb. 12, 2017, the 59th Annual Grammy Awards was broadcasted live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles by CBS. Rewind to the 1950s and the first recorded video games came to life. | John Sting


On Feb. 12, 2017, the 59th Annual Grammy Awards was broadcasted live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles by CBS. Rewind to the 1950s and the first recorded video games came to life.

Now fast-forward to the 1970s and we see the appearance of the first sounds implemented into games, and by the 1980s video games began to contain their very own soundtracks, these dates all following a timeline provided by an article by Glenn McDonald on Gamespot.

Amongst the likes of the original Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy and plenty more examples where that came from, video game music has only been evolving since it began and has birthed some of the most iconic music in history.

You’ve probably already figured out where this is headed, but by the year 2000 the Recording Academy took notice of the talent behind video game music and its composers when they began to be accepted as nominations for Grammy awards.

By 2011, the song “Baba Yetu” from Civilization IV by Christopher Tin went on record as the first game music to win a Grammy award in history in the Guinness World Records, according to their website. An LA Times article by Todd Martens states that the following year, in 2012 the independent game soundtrack for “Journey” by Austin Wintory was nominated for a Grammy as well.

Martens goes on to explain that while these games have made giant strides for video game music, the trouble is that they are nominated under a category titled “Music for Visual Media.” This means that in 2017, these soundtracks are going up against ALL other music for visual media including television and film soundtrack heavyweights.

While there certainly are video game soundtracks that can easily hold their ground against film and television scores, it’s not exactly a viable concept to put them head-to-head at the Grammys. Some specific categories listed online by the Grammy website include “Best Tradition Pop Vocal, Spoken Word, Roots Gospel, Tropical Latin, Regional Roots, Comedy albums, Traditional R&B Performance, Instrumental or A Capella arrangement, Producer of the Year, and Best Recording Package.”

Just after naming a few categories, it seems as though dividing up different genres or styles of soundtracks for visual media might be in order. There is an extensive list of subcategories for pop, rap, Latin, jazz, engineered album, American roots, classical, producer and more for artists to be nominated under. Knowing this, it would appear as though the Recording Academy should consider a call-to-action.

There should undoubtedly be at the bare minimum, subcategories for video games, television, and film scores, if not entirely separated into their own categories with their own branches.

Video game music has most definitely already made some headway into being recognized by the general public for a wide variety of music. From the 8-bit sound many of us remember from years ago in arcades and in our homes, through its growth into making use of every genre you could possibly imagine.

Its genres span world music, to full-blown electronic, to sweeping orchestral scores, and yes, the list goes on. The old Super Mario theme we all know and love along with many others have been modernized in today’s game soundtracks, as well as composed as orchestral arrangements. Then we have film composer giants such as Hans Zimmer writing music for Call of Duty, as well Joe Hisaishi from the Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro also writing for video games as of recent as mentioned by Joe Hammond of Square Enix Music.

On the other hand, we have composers for independent games such as the artist Disasterpeace who recently wrote the music for the hit horror film, It Follows as archived by the website AllMusic. Video game music has most definitely become a force to be reckoned with in the music industry, and it’s incredible to see how far it has come in 2017. Based on our evidence, there is no question that video game music has more than earned a seat at the metaphorical “big kids table,” the Grammys. While we’re at it, let’s get them their very own table.