Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Game Music as Pop Music: Buckner and Garcia's Pac-Man Fever

This morning I've watching and listening to classic arcade gameplay videos and then been listening to the corresponding tracks of Buckner and Garcia's Pac-Man Fever.  Every track incorporates some kind of game audio sound effects from the game they're singing about, and many have some of the game music (if there was music in the game) in the tracks as well.  I absolutely love this album.  Is this the first use of game audio in pop music?  Let me know if you know of earlier incorporations of game audio into pop music.

Probably my favorite thing about these tracks is that the lyrics are almost like a secret code for game players.  For instance, when you eat the power pill in Pac-Man, you the ghosts turn blue and Pac-Man can eat them; but if a person hasn't played the game, s/he wouldn't know this at all.  For people who've played it, "I'm gonna eat 'em all up just as soon as they turn blue" would've made perfect sense.  The reality is, these guys just love gaming and were inspired by it to create this album.  Having listened all the way through the album, I've got a feeling that part of what made Pac-Man Fever so popular was not just that the game was so popular, but also the call and response nature of the song that allowed for audience participation.  After all, who doesn't like a sing along?

Here's a video of them performing Pac-Man Fever on the Dick Clark show followed by an interview where they talk about writing this music.

While it was really cool to watch some gameplay of Berzerk, which has the first spoken audio I've heard in a game, to be honest, the best thing about this project today has been encountering Frogger.  Not a game I played or knew at all, but the music to this game is INCREDIBLE.  WAY ahead of anything else close to that era in diversity of audio.  The audio is inventive, Mozartian (melodic, tonal, regular), and integrated into the gameplay in that it changes as you progress through the level.  I can't believe I didn't know this game.  I wish I could find more about the composer and hear the audio without the game sound effects, but I've yet to track that down online.  If you don't know this game, give the video a listen.

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