How games are keeping traditional symphony orchestras in business

Read about the surprising role games are playing in sustaining symphony orchestras, one woman's struggle in a toxic industry, and how a player discovered their sexuality in Borderlands.

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us a look inside the videogame concerts helping to prop up symphony orchestras, as well as a player discovering her asexuality in Borderlands.

First up: at Kill Screen, Jess Joho notes how videogames are keeping the symphony orchestra from obsolescence, with the recent The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses attracting twice the amount of concert-goers than the average classical symphony event:

"I thought it was very beautiful," associate concert master Heidi Harris said to The Wall Street Journal. "I dislike videogames less now."

It's a quote that perfectly captures the bipolar relationship orchestras have developed toward the medium that is almost single-handedly bringing it back from the brink of cultural and financial extinction. Having begun its first season three years ago, the videogame oriented content continues to make waves among the more, erm, "reserved" concertgoer crowd.


Nashville Symphony vice president of artistic administration Larry Tucker admits: "I would not want to go through a season without it," seeing as attendees spend about $13,000 on action figures, posters, T-shirts and other souvenirs. While, "usually if you sell $2,000 or $3,000, it's a good night for a pops performance."

At Vice Motherboard, Andrew Paul finally discovers Minecraft, venturing into the game's populous 2b2t server to discover an "unforgiving cyber-wasteland, a hellish, pixelated world where one wrong step will lead not only to my death, but to public shaming of my virtual ignorance, as well."

On the other side of things, Jessica Curry, director and composer for Dear Esther developer The Chinese Room, explains why she is leaving the studio behind, due to a combination of a degenerative disease and toxicity in the games industry:

On a personal level I look back at my huge contribution to the games that we've made and I have had to watch Dan get the credit time and time again. I've had journalists assuming I'm Dan's PA, I have been referenced as "Dan Pinchbeck's wife" in articles, publishers on first meeting have automatically assumed that my producer is my boss just because he's a man, one magazine would only feature Dan as Studio Head and wouldn't include me.

When Dan has said "Jess is the brains of the operation" people have knowingly chuckled and cooed that it's nice of a husband to be so kind about his wife. I don't have enough paper to write down all of the indignities that I've faced.

While the industry remains a hostile place for women, some players have found themselves represented in surprising places. On The Mary Sue, Nico W. how she discovered her sexuality through Borderlands 2:

It was without a doubt one of the most enlightening experiences of my life, and as I read through story after story that could have all been written by me, I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders. I had been wrong—I wasn't broken—I was just asexual. It quite honestly changed my life.

And I had a freakin' FPS to thank for it.

Finally: the good folks at Not Your Mama's Gamer have released the first video in their new series on games, race and representation, Invisibility Blues. Take a look! follow Critical Distance on Twitter and consider pledging your support on Patreon. Header photo credit: Matt Le [via]