Electronic Arts, Composers Push for 'Best Video Game Score' Grammy Category


With sophisticated original works relegated to 'other visual media,' the call is growing for proper respect.

With the 53rd Grammy Awards scheduled to air live on CBS on February 13th, Electronic Arts is lobbying The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) to introduce a “Best Video Game Score” category for the growing number of composers creating original scores
for blockbuster video games.

Although big video games like Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, Microsoft’s Halo: Reach, and Electronic Arts’ Dead Space 2 feature original orchestral scores on par with Hollywood big budget productions, games continue to be relegated to the “Best Score for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media” category.
"This generalization of 'Other Visual Media' isn't merely an insult to the video game industry, but a blatant dismissal of these composers and their work," said Steve Schnur, worldwide executive of music and marketing at Electronic Arts. "So many Hollywood composers -- who are no strangers to Grammys, Emmys and the Oscars -- are choosing to create their most exciting work in a clearly defined field that is far
more than a ‘visual media.’ And all of them will agree that the current situation must be rectified immediately."

"It makes sense to have a Grammy for video game scores," said Oscar-winning Hollywood composer Michael Giacchino. "Each discipline has its own unique challenges. Games nowadays, in particular, probably have the most unique challenge when it comes to structuring a storyline -- simply because the user essentially creates their own version of the story being told."

Giacchino is one of a growing number of composers who got his start in Hollywood by scoring video game soundtracks before expanding to film and television work. He won an Oscar for Disney/Pixar’s Up, and also scored the game.

Grammy award-winning songwriter, musician and record producer Nile Rodgers, who runs Sumthing Else Music Works said, "It's not fair or accurate to judge (game music) against linear (traditional) scores or soundtracks. I've been a member of the Recording Academy for years and I know they want to be fair. It's time to be fair."

Top video games like Electronic Arts' upcoming Crysis 2 and Sony Computer Entertainment’s Killzone 3 feature the same level of score detail as blockbuster movies. Some scores incorporate full orchestras and huge choirs to add to the interactive experience on screen.

"Video games are providing a wonderful new canvas for composers and musicians to explore," said Academy Award-nominated Hollywood composer John Debney (Iron Man 2, Predators), who scored Sony Computer Entertainment’s Lair video game. "The creative freedom and artistic possibilities are so broad and varied that it is a very exciting new medium. Some of the freshest and most creative music is coming from these games and it is just now really opening up."

"These video game scores fall nothing short of a full-scale film score in every respect," said singer Jane Runnalls, who sang and provided vocals for Black Ops.

Schnur said the NARAS is no stranger to establishing new categories for growing/vital music fields. In the past ten years alone, they've instituted new award categories that include "Best Native American Music Album" (2001); "Best Surround Sound Album" (2005); "Best Hawaiian Music Album" (2005); and "Best Americana Album" (2010).

"The Academy understands that if the music represents a viable emerging genre, then the artists of that genre deserve respect and recognition," said Schnur.