Video games have seen many technological advances over the years, and the audio that accompanies these games is no exception. Still, in an industry where graphics have become just as important as the gameplay itself, video game music has been left behind, cursed with the burden of keeping production costs low and production times quick. In fact, most producers will admit that video game music is best when the player does not notice it.
So if the producers aren’t going to push for better video game audio, who will? Enter the Game Audio Network Guild, or G.A.N.G., a constantly-growing network of students, professionals and game audio veterans alike, headed by industry pioneer Tommy Tallarico (“Earthworm Jim,” “MDK”). Its mission is to unify game audio designers from around the world with hopes of improving both the quality of the audio and the recognition it deserves. Members receive benefits such as internships, educational resources,and discounts on audio software and hardware, but community and communication are the key factors. “Developers and publishers don’t secretly wish that their audio will suck,” Tallarico said in an email to prospective members. “The fact is that a lot of times it’s just a matter of educating the masses.”
And there’s no better way to educate the masses on the prominence of game audio than through the Grammys. Indeed, a priority for G.A.N.G. is to get enough of its 291 active members to join the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Seventy members are enough to start a new category, in this case, Best Video Game Soundtrack. “Tommy has been working a lot … getting a way for the G.A.N.G. members to all join NARAS,” the G.A.N.G.’s administrative director, Jay Semerad, told The Michigan Daily. “All you need behind you to join is the equivalent of an album’s worth of published music.” Better recognition for the audio means better recognition for the game and bigger profits for producers. The end result is a more prominent role for audio in video games.
With the production of soundtracks and presence at award ceremonies, it might sound as if game audio is following the same path as film scores. This is only natural though – there was a time where film composers too were mistreated by the Hollywood studios, underpaid and often unable to retain the rights to their music. “What they did was they formed a union, a guild if you will … And they did a concert showing all the best film music from the past few years, and it really went down in history,” said Semerad. Sure enough, the G.A.N.G. plans to put on its own concert at the Hollywood Bowl, the same historic venue where the first film music concert took place.
It is with these achievements that the G.A.N.G. hopes to erase the stigma of video game audio being “not real music.” Gamers can now look forward to a time where they not only notice their games’ soundtracks, but also enjoy their every last note.