Video games validated

2005 strategy game gets a Grammy

Bart Klick Copy Editor

As a film buff, I am, of course, excited about the Oscars, but as a longtime video-gamer, I’m far more interested in what happened at last week’s Grammy award ceremony. It passed under a lot of the more important media radars, but Christopher Tin won a Grammy (one of the music world’s most prestigious awards, and comparable to an Oscar) for his choral and instrumental piece, “Baba Yetu.”
This piece, as it happens, was composed specifically to be the opening theme song for the 2005 best selling strategy game, Civilization IV, and the 2011 Grammy awards mark the first time in history that the award has been given out for work on a video game.
Considering that video games are still under fire for supposedly inciting violence every time a crime happens, and that governments around the world still impose draconian restrictions on them (which are rarely seen imposed on comparable forms of entertainment, such as movies, comic books and novels), I am thrilled to see this official affirmation of the medium’s value from another artistic field.
Video games are finally becoming an acceptable form of entertainment, and as such, I hope our society starts overcoming the absurd notion that a violent video game can incite behavior that an equally violent novel cannot.
Next year, let’s see an Oscar awarded to a video-game actor.
While the acting in, for instance, “Dragon Age” isn’t top notch, it perforates the game so much that it becomes obvious that the publisher poured money into voice actors and coaches for them. And some voice acting, such as that found in the “Halo” series or in the recent “Medal of Honor” titles is on par with, and better than, some movies, and often far more complex.
The voice actors for the lead (actors, plural, because the player can be male or female) in the sci-fi video game series “Mass Effect” had to carry three parts, and thus keep track of three motives, because the player can be good, evil or a mixture of the two. And all of the supporting actors had to record responses for all of these. “Mass Effect” is more of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” movie than a video game, and in many places the voice actors did a superb job.
Now, I’m not arguing that “Mass Effect” has the cinematic quality of a five-star movie; it doesn’t. It’s an awesome game, but the acting has spikes and dips in quality, and other, more linear games, have done better jobs picking and coaching voice actors. But it cost millions of dollars to produce, and some video games cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce, and a significant chunk of these costs go to voice actors, motion-capture equipment (for stuntmen to get realistic-looking action into games), and sound editing.
Movies are less complicated to make, and we’re already seeing actors who contribute to both media. If a video game, as a mixture of media, can win a Grammy, an Oscar is possible.
And if video games start getting validated at prestigious events, it won’t be the newfangled medium that certain members of society blame for all of our ills.

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