Jay Castello
Freelance Writer
jaymcastello@gmail.com
@jayplaysthings

Thoughts from Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions

This past weekend, my mother took me and my sister to the Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions show in London.  

I’m twenty-one years old. My sister is nineteen. This show, based on a video game – and a relatively “childish” video game – was one of the most joyous experiences I’ve had recently.

The show itself was a concert performed by the Royal Philharmonic symphony orchestra, accompanied by game clips from all six generations of Pokémon. (Side note, they featured the male protagonist each time even though every game has had the option to choose a female or a male protagonist. But I was too happy with the whole event to make a big deal out of this.) It being the Pokémon Company I couldn’t take any pictures of my own, but here’s one from the official twitter

I have said many times that there isn’t any reason that adults shouldn’t be allowed to like video games, or cartoons, or anything that is societally considered as marketed to children rather than adults. Adults aren’t naturally boring and free of “childish” glee – and nothing has hammered that point home for me more than this event.  

The average age of the attendants was probably about 25 (in both median and mean.) At the beginning of the concert, conductor Susie Seiter (whom I must note was brilliant throughout) asked how many people had been playing Pokémon since 1998. About 50% of the audience raised their hands (of which I was not one, being four at the time.) My sister was amazed – “I was two!” she told me. “I know,” I said, “but didn’t you notice that most people here weren’t?”

All of these people in their mid-twenties – decked out in Ash caps and Pikachu outfits – were just having a purely good time. There was no pretence of trying to appear cool or unenthusiastic (and those two things are so often seen as the same thing.) I have never heard so much cheering, particularly in the Red/Blue/Yellow section at the beginning, which was pretty much continual joyful yelling. Most of them hadn’t been to an orchestral concert before (another question Seiter asked), they were moved primarily by the games, their memories, and the music itself.

Now, the performance and arrangement were incredible, don’t get me wrong. (I’ve been in orchestras, so the work that had gone into transforming these game themes – particularly when many of them were originally 8-bit – was not lost on me.) Nonetheless, most of what made the music in the concert great was the original songs, straight from the games (and thusly I must credit key composer Junichi Masuda).

I think video game music is very underrated in the overall entertainment industry – many film scores are generally accepted as masterpieces, but video game music doesn’t usually get the same treatment. This sort of concert is a great entry into the world of game music – my mother (who is not a gamer) was amazed that it was “as good as any other orchestral concert.” Those of us who play, though, know how great game music can be.

And for those of us in the audience who were gamers (the vast majority), the music was evocative of some of the greatest feelings that video games can provide, and that that same music contributes so directly to. There were two standing ovations for the orchestra; both before and after the encore, and for me personally singing the theme song (which, okay, is from the TV show but the franchise is primarily based on the games so I still think it counts) with literally thousands of other fans was one of the most carefree and straight up fun experiences I’ve had recently.

It was a real reminder about what’s so good about games, and what’s unfortunately easily forgotten - enjoyment. The simplicity of enjoying something, and enjoying things together with other people, without added complexity. This isn’t always possible, but it should be emphasised and facilitated whenever we can.

Archaeological Thoughts on Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider Spoiler Edition