Posted at 10:36 AM on December 13, 2011
by Emily Reese
And yeah, I'm angry about it. I'm angry that the two best scores of the year didn't even get a nod (Dead Space 2 by Jason Graves, and Resistance 3 by Boris Salchow).
Don't get me wrong: I truly adore the music Darren Korb wrote for Bastion. It's incredible, and it's right up my alley in terms of the type of music I like to listen to when I'm not listening to classical music.
So let's just pretend for a moment that I'm not carrying a chip on my shoulder about R3 or DS2. Let's look at what Bastion and Darren Korb were up against for Spike's 2011 VGAs: Portal 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Batman: Arkham City.
Of the four nominated, Nick Arundel and Ron Fish's Batman score is the only OST (Original Soundtrack) that is orchestra-based music. And I'm completely fine with that, if you create different categories to reflect such drastically differing genres of music.
I understand this is asking a lot of the Video Game Awards Advisory Council. But it's time to... well, get with the times. There are so many games created each year, and so many worthy composers writing great music, there is no excuse for placing Portal 2's OST in the same category as Batman's.
If you, VGA Advisory Council, are serious about awarding someone's compositional talents, then place them in appropriate compositional categories.
It can't possibly be that hard.
Of all the scores that were released this year, I feel like it was a PRETTY good spread, in terms of musical styles.
I didn't care for Portal 2's score, overall. (Available for download here I believe a lot of it was generated procedurally, if I recall correctly. It's just not very enjoyable to listen to as a musical experience. As part of the game, it must have been good, because I don't remember it.
I think that the game was well-served to receive its nominations in the Best Original Song category, even though my favorite song from the game ("Cara Mia Addio", the Turret Opera) was not nominated.
The Batman: Arkham City score I found rather forgettable also. I specifically took the time to listen to it when I saw the number of licensed tracks on the album, and wondered if they were featured in the game itself (they are not...?) but I'm not sure I gave the score a fair shake.
Deus Ex is HIGHLY listenable, and may have ended up as my favorite (and most listened to!) musical score of the year. As a soft electronic composition, it's evocative of Vangelis but with a darker stilt. I think it represents a great update to the original Deus Ex score, maintaining the feel of the universe but giving us some new and interesting melodies and progressions that can stick in your head, even if they're not always "hummable." It's a really great stand-alone listening experience, which I think counts for a lot.
As for Bastion, the VGA winner, I will say that it was NOT my favorite score of the year. Like Portal, I think it was best represented in the Best Original Song category. But, one thing that I believe Bastion had going for it, musically, is that it was extremely different from anything else I can recall in 2011. Not many games go for the sad, bluesy, campfire-hobo-storytelling vibe of Bastion... and I suspect that's what won the day for it. I wouldn't have voted that way, but I can definitely see it. If you stand out, people will take notice.
I didn't get a chance to listen to Salchow's work on Resistance 3. The album isn't available and I didn't play the game. :-( The score for R2 doesn't jump to mind, so I have to beg off with "no comment" on that one.
I did re-listen to the Dead Space 2 score last night, when I saw this post. It certainly has variety, and there's a lot going on technically with it. I'll probably always remember the Top Score Podcast interview with Jason Graves last season, where he explained how the musical components dynamically fit together... when folks mourn the death of dynamic musical experiences with iMuse, I will always be able to point to Jason's work and let them know that dynamic music is not dead.
As a listening experience, Dead Space 2 doesn't speak to me in the way something like Deus Ex or even Bastion does, but it seems to me a great technical achievement in music that doesn't get the recognition it deserves.
Another score that was widely overlooked, but that you may appreciate, Emily, is the score for SOCOM 4, by Bear McCreary. Sophia Tong (formerly of Gamespot, now at GamesRadar) pointed this out, and I wholeheartedly agree, and recommend that everyone check it out.
2011 was a musically rich year in video games, including many that may not be on anyone's radar(The Binding of Isaac - Danny Baranowsky, remake of Tactics Ogre - Hitoshi Sakimoto et al) and some that I haven't had the pleasure of experiencing (Frozen Synapse - Paul Taylor, among others).
But, personally speaking, I'm pleased that I was well-versed enough to be able to discuss this with some fluency. :-)