Wintory’s Journey to the Grammy’s

journey austin wintory

A few months ago it was announced that Austin Wintory’s soundtrack for the spectacular game Journey for the PSN has been nominated for the Grammy for “best soundtrack for a visual media.”

Now I know this is old news, it was announced as long ago as November, but I’d like to touch on just how big a deal this is for not only Mr. Wintory himself but for the video game medium as a whole.

To be nominated for an award like this that is publicly recognized on a mass scale is going to have a far greater impact than the VGA’s or any other top 10 “best of” lists a game reporting site can assemble when it comes to presenting games to the public. It is a huge step for the consideration of games as an artistic medium and breaks the mold constructed by public perception of what a game is.

Remember this, when the nominees are being read allowed during the Grammy’s this February 10th, clips are going to be played of each nominated contender along with the soundtrack. You are going to see gameplay of Journey on TV, on a public channel, being broadcast to a large number of people who will have no idea what the game is. Because of this, a number of people will become curious enough to do a simple Google search to discover what this game is, and in doing so run into at least one of the many articles that has been written about this game which has been widely considered not only ground breaking for its soundtrack but for its artistic merit on the whole. You’re going to see people read articles on how Journey was designed with the concept of the “hero’s journey” in mind, a storytelling scheme used for ages that has both historic and literary relevance, and how the game was designed with a small crew of people all who were involved from beginning to end in designing a game with both deliberate intent and a desire to make something emotionally evocative.

As a result there is an enormous amount of potential to have people at large take a second look at what video games can do.

As people consider Journey they will by proxy be reconsidering video games in general. Hopefully, some of these people will begin to see that games have more potential then the surface level violent entertainment your common bro-shooter represents, which historically has been focused on by the media for its “destructive influence” to the disservice of everything else games have been able to express.

This nomination alone is a huge milestone for the entire gaming industry and I don’t think enough can be said for how important this is or how important it is that recognition like this keeps happening.

In the light of events like Sandy Hook and Aurora, where video games inevitably become a target of blame, you need to have recognition like this to shed light upon games with artistic merit so people realize video games, like any art form, are capable of both positive and negative influence just like cinema, photography and music. What that influence is depends upon the creators of the medium and the maturity of the players.

I’ve already written a piece on violence in video games (which you can read by clicking here) in which I argue that the blame rests on the uneducated consumers who purchase violent games for their young children. 5 and 6 year old kids don’t go out to buy Call of Duty, it’s the grandparent or parent that buys Call of Duty and doesn’t give two thoughts over what the child sees or does in the game so long as that child is happy and out of the way.

Having this Grammy nomination happen despite the media’s common portrayal of video games helps fight the social stigma that games are a distraction that imposes itself on people who could otherwise be more productive. Journey in particular, being very compact and fitted into an experience which is shorter than most feature length films, stands up to the criticism that games are disproportionately more costly in time investment than other forms of entertainment.

This is how I see the future of games progressing. We’re still going to get those blockbuster, multimillion dollar, triple-A, 30-something-hour titles that appeal to a mass market. We’re going to get Halo and Call of Duty and God of War no matter what respect video games might be able to garner as an art form, just like it’s always been for movies or books or music.

We get Transformers and we get Memento,
We get Twilight and we get 1984,
We get Black Eyed Peas and we get Gil-Scott Heron.

Video games are approaching this threshold of creativity where in contrast to mass market games we are starting to see small teams of people come together to create compact, concise experiences that are able to express more acute, evocative experiences of life, death, the human condition, and anything in between. We already see Giant Sparrow, the new team hired on by Sony to replace thatgamecompany, release an amazing example of their potential for creating emotional experiences with The Unfinished Swan (which I do plan on reviewing some time in the future).

Austin Wintory’s Grammy nomination for Journey, whether he wins or not, is another in a series of steps needed to get people to acknowledge that video games contain as much potential for treasure or trash as any other form of media. Way to go Wintory.


Posted on February 4, 2013, in News, Tangent and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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