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I had a great time at MAGFest. I met great people, heard great music, went to great panels, and ate some delicious food in a beautiful city that was mostly warmer than my home.

I left Washington, D.C. Sunday afternoon, thankful to be well ahead of the giant storm (a storm with a much worse bark than bite). Each time I leave a conference or festival, I leave a bit more inspired than before I got there, and MAGFest was no exception. My praise is high, and even though I think my concerns are important, I don’t have many complaints at all.

My favorite part was the community of attendees itself, and that didn’t surprise me. As vicious as gamers can be online, they tend to be much nicer in person. If I have to be in a crowd of 15-thousand people, at least stick me in with the kind of people who say “excuse me” or “my bad” or “sorry about that” if they bump into you or inadvertently cut or take your seat or something. Largely, these are good people to be around for a few days.

My second favorite part was the arcade, because inside, I’m still that 8-year-old kid who wants to play Galaga over and over again. If you’ve never been to MAGFest, the arcade is insane. Huge and insane. And set on free play!!!!!!!!!!!! There aren’t enough exclamation points for that, seriously. I played arcade games I’d never heard of before MAGFest. Most of those machines are donated, which brings me to my next favorite part/s about MAGFest:

No sponsors! No corporations looming! Lots of free stuff to play! Super short lines, because there’s a lot of everything, and it’s open 24/7. This festival is seriously by the fans, for the fans.

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The music was, for the most part, fabulous. The sound systems, however, were abysmal. The sound was so bad in every single panel I attended, and every single concert or show I wanted to see, that it honestly was worse than I ever would’ve imagined. It never occurred to me, before I left town, to prepare myself for terrible audio at a festival designed to celebrate music.

Now, to be fair, it was in a convention center. But it was in the $870-million dollar Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, opened in 2008. How is that possible? I’m baffled how such a state-of-the-art, gorgeous, new, expansive, 21st-century building which exists, in part, as a convention center where audiences would presumably sit in large rooms and listen to people talk about things could have such terrible audio.

gaylord

Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center

I understand why the concerts didn’t sound great. A rock band or a string quartet playing inside a hotel ballroom is always going to sound below average compared to an arena or a concert hall. It makes sense that the live shows didn’t sound great. They played in hotel ballrooms, for crying out loud.

Those panels were so frustrating though, even though they were all full of great content! I was encouraged by the amount of conversations I heard, in and out of panels, about copyright law relating to original content, parody and covers. It’s a great conversation to continue to highlight!

My final complaint was borne from the “Welcome to MAGFest” speech that happened in the afternoon on the first day. It was the first organized event I attended in my MAGFest history. It started with a man telling the audience that MAGFest started so many years ago one weekend with a bunch of guys getting drunk and talking about video game music, and he made a joke about how he thought MAGFest should’ve been called “A Bunch of Dudes” instead. I looked around the room to all the women, since there were loads of us, and thought, wow. What a dick.

Obviously, if I’d gone up to him and said something, he wouldn’t have meant it that way, I’m sure he’s a feminist, and that he supports equality and fairness in gaming, but he said it, whatever, it’s done.

Despite that, you should go. Go to MAGFest. You’ll meet great people. Washington, D.C. is cool, the food is great, there are a lot of wonderful things to see and great bands to hear, awesome merchandise to browse (haha! true!), and games to play. Go to MAGFest.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

So it’s still 2015, despite my constant attempts to write and type “14” everywhere. The advent of 2015 means some great festivals and conventions are coming up fast, like PAX South and MAGFest.

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I’m missing the inaugural PAX South in favor of MAGFest. I’ve never experienced anything like MAGFest before, to my knowledge, and I’m a tad overwhelmed looking at the list of possibilities.

It’s a long list, and it’s been a pleasure to comb through it and hear a ton of great music. Even though I spend a lot of time working with video game music, and speaking with people about it, I’m constantly impressed by the magnitude of the game music community.

First of all, I’m thrilled that Do a Barrel Roll will be there. These folks all came from McNally-Smith College of Music, which is right across the street from my workplace. I watched them perform live in November at Gamer’s Rhapsody, and they were flawless. Seriously. Their performance was incredible, as if we were listening to a studio recording. I’m still in awe of it all, and I can’t wait to hear them play again.

Regarding folks I haven’t seen perform – well, that’s nearly everyone else on my list.

I’m dying to hear SAMMUS and Mega Ran. Mega Ran has a pretty great recap of 2014 here, and SAMMUS hardcore rocks the Metroid in this track.

mega ran

How about a band that plays video game covers mixing styles of jazz fusion, funk and rock? Enter “missingNo”, a handful of instrumentalists from Vancouver, B.C. Here’s their record called Warp Zone. Be sure to check out “Stickerbrush Symphony”, and listen to the frickin’ bass player. Now that’s some amazing bass-ing. I’m pumped to see these folks play live!

Here’s a confession; I’d never heard of a visualist before I started digging into the MAGFest program. It seems there will be three there, and I’m going to try and check them all out. Enerjawn, noukon and SBthree are all visualists, combining art and music live. Sounds cool. I’ll report back for sure on these folks.

The Triforce Quartet is a video game-themed string quartet. They’ve recorded a bunch of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Mario – nothing too surprising on the playlist, but I guarantee my ears will be begging for the lovely sounds these fine string players make by the time Friday night rolls around.

My biggest “OMG I CAN’T WAIT” show is Yuu Miyake, who’s the primary composer for Katamari Damacy. You can check out his SoundCloud here, but more importantly, if you’re unfamiliar with his Katamari music, go educate yourself as quickly as possible.

katamari

Others I hope to catch in concert include virt (Jake Kaufman, of Shovel Knight fame), On Being Human and the Super Guitar Bros. There will be dozens of other shows too, with dozens of other performers I didn’t mention.

It’s gonna be nuts. I’m bringing the recorder – not to record the shows, of course, but to capture as many conversations about game music as I possibly can. I look forward to sharing it all with you when I come back, or maybe I’ll see you there!

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

I’m excited for a lot of games coming out this year, and I’m crossing my fingers that 2015 will be a better year than 2014 was for gaming.

I have a list of titles I’m excited to play, and titles I’m excited to hear. Some of these games fit into both categories!

I look forward to playing The Banner Saga, Bastion, and Grim Fandango on PlayStation 4. These aren’t new games – they’ve been out on other platforms. I’ve played and loved Bastion several times, but it’ll be a blast on next-gen. Grim Fandango has one of the best soundtracks in the history of video games, thanks to Peter McConnell. I can’t wait to hear it and play it!

Bastion_Boxart

Bastion

There are a handful of titles on my list that I probably won’t play, but for which I look forward to hearing the soundtracks. It’s no secret I’m a chicken when it comes to almost any type of horror game, particularly survival horror. I won’t play Until Dawn, but I’m always fascinated by music in horror games and films. I look forward to hearing what fear sounds like.

I might skip Bloodborne and The Order: 1886. First of all, Bloodborne is the not-a-sequel to the games Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, games known for their punishing difficulties. Not my cup of tea.

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The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886 was scored by Jason Graves (Dead Space, Tomb Raider), and I gotta hear it. But there are these things called “half-breeds” in the game, and I don’t look forward to those encounters. I haven’t decided if I’ll play it, but I definitely want to hear it.

Let’s get one major disappointment for 2015 out of the way: the fantastic composer Greg Edmonson is not the composer for Uncharted 4. This is heartbreaking, because Edmonson’s music to the first three Uncharted games was perfect. Perfect! He will be missed, and I begrudgingly anticipate hearing Henry Jackman’s score.

Here are some other upcoming titles that are bound to have fantastic music: Tearaway Unfolded, The Witcher 3 and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

Tearaway Unfolded is a relaunch, of sorts, of 2013’s Vita game, Tearaway. Therefore, it’ll include the awesome music that Kenny Young and Brian D’Oliveira wrote. Kenny works in-house at Media Molecule, who develops the Tearaway games, and you might remember Brian from his flawless score to Papo & Yo. I can’t wait to hear more from them.

I’ve never had the opportunity to do an audio interview with composer Mikolai Stroinski, but I did do a print interview with him and now I can’t wait to hear his music in the upcoming The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Firstly, I’ve never played any of the Witcher games, and I look forward to healing that gaping wound in my past. Secondly, Mikolai’s music for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was great.

ethan carter

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the highly-anticipated release from The Chinese Room, the British game company run by husband-wife team Dan Pinchbeck and Jessica Curry. Jessica is the composer, and she’s magnificent. I loved and admired her music for Dear Esther and for Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. I think Jessica is one of the cleverest composers writing for games, and I can’t wait to hear her new sounds.

A couple other games I’m stoked about: For some reason, I’m not afraid of zombies, so I’ll probably play the hell out of Dead Island 2, as long as it’s a better game than Riptide was. I don’t have strong feelings about the music one way or the other, but I have very strong feelings (cravings, even?) about stomping zombie heads.

I’m intrigued by Volume (made by the same dude who did Thomas Was Alone), No Man’s Sky, and The Tomorrow Children. Let’s do this, 2015!

What are you excited to play or hear this year?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Late on Christmas Eve, my friends and I noticed something amiss with the PlayStation Network. We were all playing Destiny together, but some of us kept getting booted off the network. Two others couldn’t see anyone on their friend’s list, as though they were offline.

We had plans to play more Christmas Day, but thanks to the DDoS attacks on PSN and XBL, we were unable to do so. I was able to get back online Saturday evening. Some of my pals couldn’t get on until they heard they could change their MTU settings.

One of the alleged attackers (I learned that DDoS-ing is not hacking) appeared in a filmed interview, and said this: “I’d be rather worried if those people didn’t have anything better to do than play games on their consoles on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day”.

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Other than the fact that Mr. DDoSer also doesn’t have “anything better to do” with his time than play on his computer to ruin other people’s who are trying to do much the same thing, I’d like to tell you what I missed out on during the PSN outage.

Sure, I missed playing certain games, but I had plenty of other games to play. A lot of the games I’m currently interested in playing couldn’t be played offline (like Dragon Age: Inquisition, or Destiny, or eventually, Far Cry 4).

DA FIELD

On the bright side, this forced me to explore other titles on my “shelf” that I’d ignored to date, like Never Alone and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Both of these games are amazing and awesome and you should play them immediately.

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In reality, I personally didn’t miss gaming. I missed my friends.

I’ve connected with many friends outside of PSN, via Twitter, Facebook or text messaging, but not all of them.

This will sound far more dramatic than I intend, but I lived through the “Outage of 2011”. My biggest anxiety during the 48-hour Christmas outage was that that would happen again. We’d be unable to communicate for weeks. Screw gaming, I was worried I wouldn’t get to talk to my friends.

I didn’t hear too much talk about this during the Christmas DDoS attack. I heard about the kids and friends and brothers and sisters and boyfriends and girlfriends and moms and dads opening their gifted Xbox One or PS4 and not being able to play.

SONY-PLAY

I wanted to hear more about the people who connect to their friends and family via PSN. I’ve met some amazing humans through gaming. Like my friend, Jeffrey, from Manchester, England, who always felt so worthless and unloved and insignificant, until he met a girl, married her, had a kid, and is the happiest guy on the planet now. Or Mitch, who’s brother is struggling with substance abuse and can’t seem to pull it together. Or Javier, who’s about to go to Afghanistan again. Or Maria, who’s trying to finish her PhD in Microbiology but has an overbearing and unhelpful advisor. Robbie just bought his first house, after getting home from his first tour overseas. Willie’s dad is in the hospital. None of these names are real, but the stories are. These are my friends. And for that 48-hour period of time, over the holidays, during the DDoS attack, I didn’t know when I’d get to talk with them again.

Boo hoo? Maybe, but I’m not so sure. That type of human interaction is the aspect of gaming that counters the non-gaming public’s assumptions about it: playing video games can be a richly social experience.

I’m glad the network was down for such a short time. It prompted many of us to find connections outside of PSN, a silver lining of the grey cloud. Game on, my friends.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

This week, I’m supposed to come up with a (mostly) self-imposed task of choosing the five best video game soundtracks of 2014.

My current count is nine, and I’ve already narrowed it down.

To clarify, this is not 2013. There was no BioShock: Infinite in 2014. Not even Garry Schyman could top himself with his own Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor soundtrack, as fabulous as that music is.

 mordor

If I’m brutally honest with myself, there are four that will stay on the list, and only one slot is up for grabs. I’m going to get a load of grief for quite possibly leaving one of the most popular soundtracks of the year off the list.

One of the soundtracks that already made that list has received very little recognition. I hope to change that a bit, because it’s mildly disheartening to me that no one seems to remember it (it came out earlier this year).

Critics and bloggers seem to be glossing over another fine soundtrack from 2014: Jesper Kyd’s Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

Borderlands Pre-Sequel Cover

Purchase Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Soundtrack

If you read my words on occasion, you’re aware of my admiration of Jesper and his music. I feel like Jesper is a true magician with sound and melody. He creates the most incredible musical experiences while gaming. Here are some examples:

This track is called “Persistent Impulse”. Jesper is so good at “the groove”, amirite?? There’s a spot where it sounds like voices come in, although knowing Jesper’s music, that sound could be anything. And I love how the 8-bit, Mario-esque noise drops in as the track winds down. It’s perfect.

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The track right after “Persistent Impulse” demonstrates what I consider to be a trademark of Jesper’s (I hope calling it that doesn’t discourage him from using the technique). The track is called “Beyond the Biodome”. It starts with a winding, 16th-note motive that echoes and twists around until he flips where it starts and ends. Jesper does it so subtly that, unless you’re really paying attention, you could miss it. I love that trickery.

System Interference” is another great song to get your blood pumping. Or, if you need to chill out and take a trip, listen to “Outlands”.

Gearbox, the developer of the Borderlands series, tends to have difficulty creating games independent of lengthy swaths of repetition. Thankfully, these moments go by quickly thanks to a couple of the things they do well: great one-liners and Jesper Kyd.

Take a listen today, and let me know what you think. I think this deserves a spot on the list for sure.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

I watched a show tonight called Doomsday Preppers. It’s a NatGeo show, I have no idea how many seasons there are, and I don’t care. In this program, the producers profile Americans who spend an above-average amount of time preparing for the end of the world.

In the episode I watched, one couple feared the North/South pole shift, another man hiked around Los Angeles foraging food from plants in preparation for a devastating earthquake, and a woman who readied herself for an impending oil crisis (she lives in Houston).

doomsday

Additionally, I’m an avid fan of The Walking Dead series of games and TV. I’ve played Fallout, State of Decay, The Last of Us, and plenty of Earth-has-been-invaded-and-life-as-we-know-it-is-over games like Resistance or Mass Effect.

Here is my conclusion: I’m not built for the apocalypse, no matter how it comes. Exception: if aliens come and have special interest in classical music or video game music or radio hosts, I’ll be A-OK.

When I watch or play The Walking Dead, I have *no* desire to live like that. None.

walkingdead

There are survival skills I’d be willing to learn that could come in handy now, pre-apocalypse. Things like how to purify water, or how to start a fire. I was a Brownie for a while but I don’t recall being taught how to start a fire at age 8. It could come in handy in real life, if I ever get stranded somewhere.

I don’t want to learn how to stitch a wound, or barter for supplies. I can’t barter now. The other day, I got incorrect change back from a cashier (to the store’s favor) and I didn’t say a word. Imagine me in the apocalypse.

I don’t want to shoot anything but spiders. In fact, I would love to shoot spiders. But I don’t want to shoot an animal to eat it. If I shot spiders, it’d be for fun. My uncle shoots deer with crossbows and uses every last scrap of that animal for various foods and such. It’s impressive. Maybe I’d go crash at his place?

But that’s far away from where I live, and I already know I’d never make it. It’s a solid three tanks, maybe two, in a fuel-efficient vehicle. And that’s the other thing; I’d potentially be escaping life in a two-door Honda Civic. It’s probably not the best choice.

No music. There wouldn’t be music anywhere. I wouldn’t be able to hear Bach or Beethoven, or Jesper Kyd or Nobuo Uematsu or Respighi or Brahms or Rameau or Björk. I’ve dedicated my life to music. What would I do without it? There are no mp3 players, Discmans or Walkmans in the apocalypse once the batteries run out.

I don’t have any interest in learning any elaborate evacuation plan to get out of Minneapolis. Such a plan seems as though it might require some sort of physical strength or endurance. I can’t do a single push-up; I haven’t done a pull-up since middle school. I can walk fast because I’m six feet tall. But, the last time I ran a mile was 2005. I do not own a bike (someone stole it off my porch a few years ago).

When I watch shows like Doomsday Preppers, or The Walking Dead, or I play a game like State of Decay (or any sort of game in the survival genre), I can’t stop thinking: I don’t want to live this way. I don’t want to plan for a life in which I’m eating food out of jars and cans until it runs out. I don’t want to excessively ration supplies. Life isn’t nearly that hard now, but it’s weird enough, and I don’t want to fight to live.

state of decay

As I talk with friends about this, some wholeheartedly agree. My friends who disagree, however, really disagree. I wonder if they don’t think I value my life? I totally value my life as it is now. My actions, my career, all of these things demonstrate how I value my life. In the apocalypse, I would not feel the same way.

For the “Preppers”, maybe preparing for the end helps them feel in control of an uncontrollable event. It gives them purpose and focus. Well, music and games are my focus, neither of which seems that likely when the power grid shuts off.

In the coming weeks, I’ll highlight some of my favorite video game music from 2014. Thanks for listening to me rant about the end of the world.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

The following is my wish list for this holiday season:

  1. Stop playing Destiny.
  2. Get the raid gear for my Warlock and/or Titan in Destiny.
  3. A Vex Mythoclast in Destiny.
  4. Or a Hawkmoon.
  5. Finish Dragon Age: Inquisition instead of Destiny.
  6. Finish Far Cry 4 instead of Destiny.
  7. Play Assassin’s Creed: Unity instead of Destiny.
  8. Finish Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor instead of Destiny.
  9. I also want Pocket Infinity.
  10. Get me to level 30, or even 32, in Destiny.
  11. I’d like to take a vacation to Puerto Rico, where I could play Destiny in a LAN party with my PSN friends only IRL.
  12. I’d like new planets in Destiny. I understand we can’t walk around on Jupiter or Saturn, but let’s continue to suspend our disbelief and go to Mercury.
  13. Is Destiny, like, anti-dwarf planet? How about Pluto?
  14. I never finished Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments either. Thanks, Destiny.
  15. I’d like to get LittleBigPlanet 3. It would sit in a stack with all aforementioned games, watching me play Destiny.

Destiny is my new Diablo. Remember when I couldn’t stop playing that game? The platinum trophy for Reaper of Souls is within my reach, yet might take the rest of my life because I can’t do anything except play Destiny all the time – thanks, in large part, to the social aspect of the game.

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My warlock

I do love Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s a beautiful game, the fighting is a blast, the followers are fun, the story is engaging (in my opinion) and the tasks and missions aren’t any more tedious than what I endure in Destiny.

I get to play with friends in Destiny. All of those games I listed above also have multiplayer. I’m generally a PvE person, but sheesh, there’s PvE in most of those I listed up there anyway. But my friends aren’t playing those games either; they’re playing Destiny.

Above all, I wish I could get PS4s for all of my local gaming friends this season. Then we could all play Destiny together.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

 

The problem with Dragon Age: Inquisition has nothing to do with Trevor Morris’s music. It’s gorgeous, and fits in beautifully with the continent of Thedas. You can hear an excellent roundup of the score in The Well of Sorrows.

DA COVER

Morris’s themes are magnificent – a large orchestra, full choir, vocal soloists, loads of brass and percussion, and more. I love the music he wrote.

I don’t love how the music works in the game. If I want to hear all the great music Trevor wrote, I have to literally listen to the soundtrack, because I rarely hear it in the game.

DA SCENERY

I’ve put about 27 hours into the game, and I’m slowwwwwwww at moving through games like this. I love to poke around in the forest, search corners of caves, walk along the rivers and lakes, see if I can climb that mountain with my horse, give up on the horse and try climbing it by jumping, give up on jumping and go all the way around, stop for every herb along the way, mine iron and summer stone and blue vitriol from every boulder, kill every bear, loot every cabin, root out all the bandits, mercenaries and apostates, and so on.

While I’m doing all of those things, things that I truly enjoy and adore about gaming, I rarely hear music with any melody.

Here’s why this matters. When I’m away from the game, I never find myself singing any themes from the experience. I don’t walk away humming tunes, wishing I could still be playing.

The Bethesda games, like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, are great. I can hear those melodies and instantly want to be in the game world playing. Same with the Jesper Kyd years of Assassin’s Creed, or Red Dead Redemption. Even Destiny uses melodic content during exploration, and I find myself singing those tunes many hours after turning off the game.

DA Dragon

My only complaint to Trevor is that his ambient music is too ambient. I can’t blame him for this, because I don’t know what the audio directors asked him to do. It’s possible they didn’t want melodic music, thinking it might be too intrusive to the experience.

If that was the case – if the audio directors wanted the music as background only, they succeeded. If I want to hear the best stuff, I have to wait for cinematics, which make up only a fraction of the amount of time I’m playing the game.

DA FIELD

My biggest takeaway from the music to Dragon Age: Inquisition is that I have no takeaway. The only way for me to truly enjoy the great music Trevor wrote is to stop playing the game and listen to the soundtrack with speakers or headphones. To me, as a gamer and a musician, this is a tragedy, and comes awfully close to negating the beauty of Trevor’s hard work.

Think of your favorite open world games that have an exploration/grinding/farming component. What are your feelings about the music in those games? Do you enjoy carrying a tune along with you when you’re not playing, or do you prefer the music to be more subtle?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends. – See more at: http://www.sumthing.com/blog/#sthash.05TVzAhw.dpuf

Firstly, Happy Dragon Age: Inquisition Day (aka The End of My Social Life Forever).

Secondly, I attended Gamer’s Rhapsody over the weekend; the first of what we hope will be many conventions in the future celebrating video game music and media. Special guests included Dale North (Dragon Fantasy Book II), Jake Kaufman (Shovel Knight) and Rich “Disasterpeace” Vreeland (Fez).

Thomas Spargo organized the event. He’s a student at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, and made his Gamer’s Rhapsody dream a reality.

gamersrhapsodylogo

I participated in one panel and hosted another, but the festivities Saturday night were my favorite part. The night was full of music, performed by the aforementioned guests, along with the trio Nerd Enhanced Sound and the eight-piece band, Do a Barrel Roll.

I’ve spoken about Nerd Enhanced Sound in the past – they’re fabulous and their set was fantastic. NES is a trio of piano (Mike Vasich), bass (Nick Gaudette) and violin (Zack Kline). The three met in music school and formed a different trio called Orange Mighty Trio. After OMT played together for a couple years, Mike and Nick discovered they both adore video game music, so OMT created their alter ego – Nerd Enhanced Sound. Saturday night, they played Metroid, Marble Madness, Dr. Mario and more. Two gamers battled it out on the big screen during Dr. Mario. It was pretty great.

Do A Barrel Roll… I mean… seriously. Do yourself a giant favor and listen to them IMMEDIATELY. The eight of them met and started playing covers together when they were students at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. They’re incredible musicians… like sickly incredible. The lead guitarist, Austin, arranges all the music. Believe me when I tell you that what you hear in the recordings on Bandcamp is exactly what you hear when they play live. It’s incredible.

Dale North has a gorgeous voice, and although he didn’t want to perform original music, he did a great set of covers of JRPG ballads and such. Rich Vreeland also has a beautiful voice, and played an unplugged set at the piano singing original songs. Rich has a unique sense of melody and phrasing, bringing a wealth of variety to what might otherwise be a dude singing songs at a piano. I am a horrible person and went home to pass out before I could hear Jake Kaufman’s set.

Jake was a part of the panel I hosted, along with Rich. Jake and Rich are both beloved in the game music community for their chiptune music. However, they wrote such vastly different scores, it was delightful to hear them talk about their approaches and philosophies about their compositions.

My hope is that you will come next year. It’s cold and snowy here right now, yes, but it’s good for you. Plus, just like Minneapolis right across the river, St. Paul has a skyway system ensuring you never even need to leave the comfort of the indoors. All the more reason to spend a weekend jamming and hanging out with your fellow video game music lovers!

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

This weekend in the Twin Cities (in St. Paul, technically), there’s a new game media convention called Gamer’s Rhapsody. I’m participating in two panels, although I think I’m most excited for performances by Dale North, Nerd Enhanced Sound, Disasterpeace and Jake Kaufman. Here are some reasons you should come if you’re in the neighborhood:

Saturday at noon, I’m sitting on a panel called “Hey Listen! Linking video game music to its classical roots”. Coolest part is, this one wasn’t even my idea. Tim Turi of Game Informer, along with the three brothers (two of whom are pictured in the link) of the Super Marcato Bros., hatched that plan. We’ll be talking about how classical music inspired composers from all walks of video game life, 8-bit era through modern game scores.

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Later the same day, I get to have a panel conversation with Disasterpeace (Rich Vreeland, who wrote the soundtrack to Fez), and Jake Kaufman (Shovel Knight). I’m looking forward to this – I’m fascinated by the workings of the 8-bit composer’s mind. Even though Rich and Jake wrote Fez and Shovel Knight using similar sounds, these are two completely different soundtracks. Like BioShock’s orchestral score vs. Dead Space 2. Similar tools, different results.

If you live in the vicinity and want to be connected to the gaming community, this is the place to be. The International Game Developers Association Twin Cities chapter will be there. Several Twin Cities developers and studios, like Yellow Chord Audio, Big John Games and Thought Shelter Games will have tables there.

If you’re into remixing video game tracks, there are a couple must-see options: Dale North has a panel about what makes a remix great, and (trying to contain my glee) OC Remix is coming!

Saturday night is all about the music. Dale North, who is Destructoid’s editor in chief, recently finished a score for Dragon Fantasy Book II. He’s also a singer/songwriter and is doing a set Saturday evening.

Nerd Enhanced Sound is a local trio that normally goes by the name Orange Mighty Trio. These three fellas play covers of video game soundtracks from the old days, like Contra, Metroid, Duck Tales and Marble Madness. There’s plenty of Mario in there too. Piano, bass and violin makes for a great alternative to the originals!

Disasterpeace is doing a set – he’s also a singer/songwriter and I’m looking forward to hearing a different side of Rich’s musical brain. His Fez score was so intelligent and thoughtful – well planned, well constructed – I imagine his other music will do the same.

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Purchase the Fez soundtrack right here!

Jake Kaufman is the only one I’ve never interviewed or met. That right there is reason enough to hear his set Saturday night at the end of a long day! I love his Shovel Knight score and can’t wait to hear more of his music.

If you’re in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I highly encourage you to come to Gamer’s Rhapsody. It’ll be an intimate group (it’s the first year, remember) so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet folks and ask questions, or show off your own creativity!

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

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