The lights are on
In 2005, Tommy Tallarico forever changed the way aficionados hear the games they play. The very first Video Games Live concert was performed at the Hollywood Bowl, and since then, audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands have been treated to the rock show-meets-symphony experience.
Two albums, the ninth most watched PBS special, and dozens of concerts in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America later, Tallarico is asking fans for help to make a third recording possible. He's taking to Kickstarter in order to produce a new album called Video Games Live: Level 3.
The first Video Games Live album was published by EMI (now defunct and sold off to Sony and Universal). The second was generated from a self-funded PBS special. Of the $1 million required to make that event happen, $750,000 of it was Tallarico's personal contribution. Video Games Live: Level 3 will be a studio album, and the scaled down budget reflects an endeavor without expenses tied to the production of a major television event.
The $250,000 project goal is well detailed in the project description, and Tallarico is again putting up his own money alongside backer contributions. "Part of my goal in creating Video Games Live was to help usher in a new generation of young people to appreciate the arts and the symphony," Tallarico told us. "The main goal is to prove to the world how culturally significant and artistic video games have become."
To that end, when Video Games Live tours, tickets start as low as $15. There is a free meet-and-greet after every performance, and Tallarico often takes the show off the beaten path in venues that support audiences as small as hundreds and as large as tens of thousands. Regardless, each time he works in a new city, he has to explain that there is an audience for the music.
"They say that symphony goers don't play video games and gamers don't go to symphonies," Tallarico said. "The only venues it's easy to sell to are the places we've been before, because we sell out."
The concerts are a multimedia experience, and should Video Games Live: Level 3 shoot past its $250,000 goal to $750,000, a new DVD/Blu-Ray will be produced. The plan is to bring the show back to Latin America for five shows, complete with video, all of which Tallarico edits himself.
"I work with Blizzard on World of Warcraft, Valve on Dota 2, and Hideo Kojima on Metal Gear Solid," Tallarico said of how he approaches video. "For instance, I asked, 'Hideo what are your favorite scenes and what comes to your mind?'"
The music is equally personal, and Tallarico told me that he won't include something from a game he doesn't know well. "I resisted putting Pokémon in the show for many years, because I didn't know the music," he told us. "I don't want to do a segment if I'm not knowledgeable about the content. There's nothing in the show that I haven't played all the way through. That's why stuff like Shadow of the Colossus and Beyond Good & Evil is in there."
Pokémon fans can thank Tallarico's long-time girlfriend for its more recent inclusion in the repertoire. She introduced him to the series and continues to assist with production of the video and music selection and composition.
The reward tiers offer backers a number of selections, but even those contributing at the $5 tier get music, with a collection of previously available Video Games Live music on offer. Starting at $10, the full Level 3 album becomes available. $25 nets backers an additional Journey piano album arranged by Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory.
Higher levels offer signed CDs, scores, custom dialog from Metal Gear Solid voice actor David Hayter, and lunch at Blizzard with the studio's composers. The $10,000 tier allows a backer to create a segment, essentially commissioning an arrangement.
The Kickstarter page for Video Games Live: Level 3 can be found here. You can also watch the Video Games Live performance streamed on Twitch.tv from San Diego Comic-Con 2013.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.