Origins: Tommy Tallarico Provides Comic-Con’s Gloriously Geeky Game Soundtrack

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In “Origins,”  creators talk about their formative experiences with comics, movies, games and the things that influenced them to pursue lives of professional geekery.

With all the sweaty madness and queuing that accompanies Nerd Prom each year, a concert with thousands of fellow nerds doesn’t sound like much of an oasis. But, Video Games Live is no ordinary arena show. The brainchild of game music composer Tommy Tallarico gives the orchestral treatment to tunes from old-school NES games like The Legend of Zelda and newer classics like Bioshock.

PBS recently announced that they’ll be airing a VGL special during the months of July and August, celebrating the phenomenon that the eight-year-old concert tour has become. Along the way, VGLs played Comic-Con for the last few years and this Saturday’s concert will include the world premiere of music from End of Nations, a buzzed-about MMO coming from Trion Worlds. Tallarico gave us a generous chunk of time to talk about getting his start in the games industry, why he started the successful Video Games Live tour and advice on breaking in.

I wanted to start off by saying congrats on the special.

Thank you.

Is this the first time that you guys are doing PBS?

Yeah, this is the very first time that we have been on PBS. Its pretty intense, pretty incredible when you think about, especially with all this “Are video games art?”crap going on, yknow, the whole Ebert thing. I challenge him to watch PBS–which has been the defining educational and cultural and artistic television station for over 40 years. I challenge him to watch the show and tell me its not art. Im throwing down the gauntlet, damn it!

Well, he has kind of recanted a little bit…

I have heard, yeah. I read something last week where he is like, oh, I should play games before I say comments like that. But thats cool.

Its not until he actually gets a controller in his hands that probably we will see the light, but that might be harder said than done.

Oh, I have always said too, and I was surprised that it came from — that kind of thought process was coming out of a guy like him who knows so much about film, because the reality is, we always compare ourselves with the film industry, but what I always found really interesting is, if you parallel the game industry to the film industry, there are many, many parallels.

When films first came out in the 1910s and the 1920s, they werent universally accepted by everyone. All the old people were saying, oh, what is this crap? These black-and-white flicking pictures, with no sound, no color? Vaudeville is where its at! That was all the old folks. Then it took a couple of generations of people who grew up on films, and then they got sound, and then they got color, and then they got better acting and storylines and things like that.

Now, take the video game industry. 1972, PONG comes out. What was it? Black-and-white, no color and no sound. That was kind of like our first film. Then we got sound, then we got color, and then we got story lines and acting and this and that. So again — and if you look at the timeline it wasnt really until the 40s and 50s, Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, where these films really became mainstream, where films started to become mainstream. Look at that, about 40 years later after the inception of film.

Again, look at the video game industry. Here we are, about 40 years later, and now we are getting legitimatized and weve come such a long way. And our generation–Im 42 years old–I was the first generation that grew up on video games. Now that my generation is having kids, its evolving into our culture. It is becoming something that in 20 years from now, when my generation are grandparents, the cycle is complete. Then it wont be thought of as anything else except arts and entertainment. So it’s interesting when you parallel the two.

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