New Grammy Award is a Leap Forward for Video Game Music

Video Game Music Gets its Recognition

There is a case to be made that music is the most universal and accessible art form. As long as one has functioning ears there is little limit to what they can choose to listen to. Listeners are not required to understand the mechanics, the language sung or even the deeper meaning of a song to find a simple level of enjoyment. 

Music and sound have been utilized to enhance other forms of art for years. Years of media production have created the music genre of movie scores and soundtracks. It is hard to imagine watching Star Wars without the iconic John Williams score. Similarly, watching old cartoons like Spongebob or Dragon Ball without their background music would seem odd. 

Like television and movies, video games have used music to help create better experiences for the players. Unlike those other media forms, the music in video games in earlier history was limited to the technology of the time. 

When mentioning video game music, one may assume that it is just a bunch of chiptunes making beeps and boops to a short catchy medley. That may have been more accurate in the earlier days of gaming, but in recent times the quality and variety of music players can hear in their games is on par with what they will hear outside the gaming world. 

The Recording Academy has recently taken notice as well by announcing a new Grammy category specifically for video game music. For the 2023 Grammys, many video game soundtracks will have the opportunity to get nominated for the most prestigious awards in all of music. 

This has been a long time coming for the video game music genre. Back in 2011, Christopher Tin won the first Grammy for a song from a video game, taking home the Best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalist. The track Baba Yetu, which can be heard on the title screen for Sid Meier’s Civilization IV, broke new ground for video game music and is appreciated globally.

Christopher Tin with his Grammy

Although technically it was not directly ripped from the original game, the Super Nintendo game Kirby Superstar won a Grammy in the past year for Best Arrangement Instrumental or A Capella. Meta Knight’s Revenge, a track from 1996’s Kirby Superstar, was covered by The 8-Bit Band. It won a grammy and continued the push for video game music to be taken more seriously.

The 8-bit Big Band Plays Video Game Music

One notable setback is that there is only one new category for the whole video game music genre. Nowadays one can hear any sub-genre in their video games, so it may be challenging to determine a handful of tracks to represent. 

Will the nominees represent the most popular song from the most popular games of that year? Will games have tracks tailor-made according to a winning formula to get an easy nomination? Is the Grammy voting panel going to select music that sounds more like the stereotypical video game music of the old? 

Viewers will have to wait and see. 

Ultimately, award recognition does not matter. Most quality works of art will find a way to break through to the masses in this age of viral information spreading. Somehow, award shows tend to stir up a controversy or two from nomination snubs or attendees assaulting presenters.

There is a huge list of video game music composers who arguably deserve an honorary grammy just for the legacy of their discography. Composers like Final Fantasy’s Nobuo Uematsu, Elder Scroll’s Jeremy Soule, Kingdom Hearts’ Yoko Shimomura, and Nintendo’s Koji Kondo are just a handful of artists that probably should have received a Grammy years ago. 

Additionally, contemporary composers who have made names for themselves through popular indie games will get the opportunity to win a Grammy. Composers such as Undertale’s Toby Fox, Celeste’s Lena Raine, Cuphead’s Kristofer Maddigan, and Shantae’s Jake Kaufman come to mind. 

It will be fascinating to see who is nominated and then wins the first Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Interactive Media next year. Additionally, there has been a trend of live orchestra concerts for popular game series. Recently global tours include the likes of Final Fantasy VII and Assassin’s Creed. The accessibility for the game music is also easier than ever thanks to streaming services and dedicated fans uploading tracks to Youtube.

Kirby Anniversary Concert Celebrates Video Game Music

For those that may feel a little self-conscious about having a Spotify account full of liked video game music, they can perhaps feel a little less embarrassed knowing that they got award-winning audio blasting from their favorite games. 

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