Many years ago, I was incredibly active on HCRealms.com, a forum devoted to the game Heroclix. This was the first internet community I was really a part of and one of the first times I realised it’s ok to be a geek and enjoy superheroes. You are not alone. For those of you who remember growing up before the internet exploded, that was definitely a big deal. A ton of those niche little interests – comic books, video games, tabletop role-playing games, etc. – would get you bullied and ostracized by many of your fellow kids. Without ready access to communities that also shared those interests, it was very easy to feel all alone.
One day, a whole bunch of us on the forums were talking about music. One of my friends mentioned a particular band, The Protomen. They did Mega Man-inspired rock operas. I stared at the link contemplatively thinking, “Isn’t that a little…geeky?”
Looking back with hindsight, yes, I can definitely see the hypocrisy of it. But my time on the internet showed me that geeks come in all shapes and sizes. Years of conditioning had taught me that there was some arbitrary line in the dork sands; diving into a musical fan work in a professional manner would clearly be crossing it.
Fast forward to the present. I am sitting in front of my computer with my microphone plugged in. Recording one of the many auditions for LemonLight Productions’ Indie Song Package. I am singing that first Protomen song that was shared with me all those years ago.
Fanwork surrounding a work of fiction is nothing new. Even as far back as the 1600s, Miguel de Cervantes had to write an entire second part of Don Quixote to make the point that none of the stories about Quixote written by random people are canon. This is a phenomenon going back centuries. People are impacted by works of fiction in different ways. They want to share the magic with others but also be involved and celebrate what has affected them.
Emotions in Video Games
Video games can affect players in a very emotional manner. In fact, I’d argue that they invite it more so than books or film. In a video game, you are not just a passive observer of a character’s action, you are brought into the world of the game, bound by its rules and lore. The story, whether it be a complicated fifty-hour epic or as simple as ‘Pac-Man eats things’, is driven by you, the player. You are already brought in to be part of the universe. It only makes sense that you’d want to leave an impact. People get inspired, and thus, they create fan works. These come in many forms but projects centred around music are steadily increasing in frequency.
Some of these works are professional in nature. We see various bands made up of video game fans trying to share their passions with the world. They’ve been deeply impacted by the iconic music of these games and want to do their own take on it. For example, we have the Super Soul Bros, who bring their funky, soul-filled take on various franchises. Another example is the Megas, the California based band who have put their own spin on the songs and stories from Mega Man 2 and 3, and several pieces from Castlevania as well.
Some of them compose their own original songs inspired by various games. The one I’m obviously most familiar with is the Protomen. The band was originally made of students studying music at a university level and they came together over their love of Mega Man. And thus a dystopian take of the series was born.
Modern Technology Increases Music Availability
Thanks to the increasing availability and ease of recording and mixing technology, it isn’t just full-time professional musicians who are showing their love for their favorite series. A few years ago, Man on the Internet completed Undertale: the Musical, to share their love of the earthshaking indie game. This year, LemonLight Productions is wrapping up their production of Night in the Woods: The Musical, which is one of my favorite gaming music work I have ever listened to. The Game Rec Room is currently writing and recording a song package based around Super Mario Galaxy.
These are just some of the many fan musicals out there, made purely through love for the genre. Ultimately, these musicals are done to showcase the extent to which these digital stories affect its fans and hopefully, in turn, impact more people out there.
I think it’s fantastic. They say that music is the universal language. It is an integral part of our storytelling, to pass the information on to those who come after us. I believe creating music makes us oh so very human.
Gaming can be appreciated worldwide, regardless of language. Anyone can pick up a controller and be lost in a new world. You can feel a character’s struggle, fall in love with the land you’re traversing, cry with your companions or cheer when the big, bad villain is defeated. Every gamer has a story to tell of a powerful moment within a game, often with the accompaniment of a memorable soundtrack.
As humans, we long to share what we love with others so they may partake in that same joy and passion. Perhaps in a way that is what these projects do. They bring people together through two universally shared loves, gaming and music. In turn, one passion begets another, giving rise to something unique to everyone, but shared in one common ground.
The question is, what song will you be lost in? What will inspire you? And if so, would you heed the call?