In the niche realm of videogame music, fans are as intense about the medium as they are with any other musical genre. There are plenty of sites out there that index original works, torrent trackers that offer up collections, and YouTube videos showing off fan remakes done in Mario Paint. But for another look at how truly artistic this type of thing can be, and the rather profound impact videogame music remix artists can have on original composers and game producers alike, it's instructive to take a look at one of the genre’s kings, OverClocked ReMix
For those of you unfamiliar with OverClocked ReMix, they are a non-profit organization created to pay homage to gaming soundtracks through incredibly artistic reimagining of original videogame music. Their website offers up thousands of free fan-made arrangements, details on the original composers, tools and resources for remix artists, and a community forum for fans. It was started by David Lloyd
(djpretzel). I asked David a couple of questions to get details on the experience.
OC ReMix is adamant that the works they promote should be truly derivative, rather than plagiarizing. I asked David about the reaction he's received from original composers and if he's ever had to rely on fair use arguments as a defense.
"We haven't had to. Knock on wood, right? I think companies have started realizing that fan art - be it visual, textual, or aural - can only help expand their market, enrich the universe of their franchises, etc. We do believe that our not-for-profit community, the free music it releases, and the educational & creative spirit we try to foster among artists is all in keeping with the spirit of fair use."
This is something that gets talked about a lot at Techdirt: fan involvement is a benefit
, not something of which to be fearful
. Many artists consider it an honor
. Perhaps it's the nature of the medium with game music, but it seems like game producers are more open to fan involvement of all kinds from their customers, be it mods and content, or musical arrangements. But the obvious question is what benefits have been seen from fan-generated works, both for the game producers and the fans themselves? David offers insight there, as well:
"So far, the response from the game composers we've talked with has been unilaterally positive, and we've also had great feedback & interaction with community representatives and others in the game industry.
He then goes on to inform me of the cross-interaction he's had with his fans, original composers, and game producers. A few examples: a published interview with Wizards & Warriors and Donkey Kong Country 2 composer Dave Wise, working with Tommy Tallarico and Video Games Live, interest in the site by Secrets Of Mana music composer Hiroki Kikuta and Contra 4 composer Jake Kaufman, who went so far as to submit his own
Bollywood-style remix of his own original
music for Shantae: Risky's Revenge. The point is that the games get talked about, interest is generated in the music, the composers, and the games... and everyone benefits. And, of course, everyone has a great time doing so.
The culminating example of this was when Capcom reached out to David in the midst of producing Super Street Fighter 2 HD Remix
. They had heard the free album OC ReMix released in 2006 as an homage to the Street Fighter 2 soundtrack, called Blood on the Asphalt
, and were so enthralled with the music that they commissioned OC ReMix to produce the entire soundtrack
for the new game. And the reviews of the game went out of their way to mention the strength of the soundtrack, even if David tries to play down how good it was.
"Well, it was Street Fighter, so it was probably going to be successful on some level even if the soundtrack had consisted solely of some random guy playing the Guile theme on kazoo, but the majority of reviews had positive things to say, and Capcom did make comments to the effect of being happy with our work. Equally as important, we've had great feedback from hardcore SF fans, who are always going to be your toughest audience."
Too humble, if industry reaction is to be judged. One Capcom V.P. described showing the game to guests, nearly all of whom praised the game's soundtrack before any other aspect. In its review
of the game, IGN made specific mention of OC ReMix and praised their work, as did GameSpot
, and 1UP.com
Overall, OC ReMix is a great study in how fans can help content producers and also be involved in future works. OC ReMix has put their work out there for free, often times via bittorrent, and that has led to interest and further work. All of this promotion, all of this fandom, serves only to help the games, in one case going so far as to have fans essentially compose the music for an entire game. Why can't music and movie producers find the same value in fan-made creations as some of these gaming companies have?