Video Games Live strengthens local art community, offers night of entertainment

The interactive, multimedia concert experience will come to the Landmark Theatre Nov. 9.

Syracuse is becoming immersed in virtual reality.

A slew of events in the arts community have been focused on video games. From the Everson Museum of Art and the Landmark Theatre to the Urban Video ProjectSymphoria and beyond, Syracuse residents and tourists have a unique opportunity to look at video games in a fairly new way: as an art form.

The latest video game-themed event is Video Games Live, a concert experience created by video game composer Tommy Tallarico that has been performed across the world. The event, which will be performed by Symphoria, is coming to the Landmark Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 9. Tickets are $19-79 and can be purchased on Ticketmaster.

“It’s very exciting, but there’s quite a bit to coordinate to put it all together,” said Jon Garland, Symphoria musician and board member.

The event features music from popular video games such as Halo, Final Fantasy, Tron, Mass Effect and Silent Hill.

But it’s more than just a concert. The event also features video footage synchronized with the music, Internet solo performers and interactive segments.

Garland said members of the professional orchestra have had the music to practice, but there has only been one rehearsal where everyone played together with the special effects. He said the orchestra members will have earpieces so they can hear a click track throughout the concert, guaranteeing they’ll stay synced with the video. Although this is a special challenge for Symphoria, Garland said they have played with coordinated video before.

Although Video Games Live in itself is a unique event for an orchestra, Syracuse is putting a twist on the concert by offering audiences more video game art to explore after Video Games Live is over.

“One of the things we’re interested in is not just performing concerts, but creating an environment in the community that is collaborative and open,” Garland said.

Video Games Live has certainly been a collaborative project, according to Steven Kern, executive director of the Everson Museum of Art. The museum is hosting though January The Art of Video Games, a touring exhibit featuring 80 games, 20 consoles and five playable games.

“This is two organizations coming together and taking advantage of a common theme,” Kern said. He said when one art institution in the community books something, other art institutions seek out opportunities for piggybacking. They take advantage of possible cross-promotion and offer the community a more complete cultural experience. They also collaborate in hopes of building their audiences.

“In my experience, it offers the opportunity to hit home runs on a regular basis,” Kern said of collaboration.

The Landmark Theatre also worked to organize the event and make it more than just a concert. There will be a pre-show event in the lobby of the Landmark, featuring a costume contest, a Guitar Hero competition, prize give-aways and interactive game demonstrations. There will also be a post-show event featuring a meet-and-greet with game composers and designers. Both the pre- and post-show events are open to all Video Games Live ticket holders.

The concert is coming to Syracuse at a time when gaming is becoming more accepted as an art form. Everything from visual design to storytelling to music is being recognized as something more highbrow than pop culture entertainment.

“Video games have tremendous music soundtracks involved with them,” Garland said. He added that Tallarico thinks video game music belongs with orchestras. “One of the things he’d said is he believes video game music is the new classical music,” Garland said.

All of the arts organizations involved hope Video Games Live — and all the other video game-themed events — will bring a diverse audience to their doors.

“The more we can do together — not just to save money, not just to shave costs, not just to economize, but to provide the richest possible experience — the better,” Kern said. “If times were really rich right now, collaboration would still be a mainstay.”

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