To help round out our month of music appreciation we have an interview with Thomas Spargo, the creator of local video game convention Gamer’s Rahpsody. We at Mega Dads love getting to know our local community of Game enthusiasts and creators and that’s what makes this interview so special. Gamer’s Rhapsody, much like 2D Con is a celebration of gaming that is held right here in our own backyard of the Twin Cities. We hope you enjoy our interview with Mr. Spargo and we hope you take the time to check out Gamer’s Rhapsody!
Mega Dads: Thank you for taking the time to be a part of our video game music appreciation month! Why don’t you start by introducing yourself? Who are you and what is your role in Gamer’s Rhapsody?
Thomas Spargo: Hi Adam, thanks for having me on your site! I’m Thomas Spargo and I’m the founder and organizer of Gamer’s Rhapsody and our newest event, The Bit Run (a video game themed fun run).
MD: Can you give us an overview of Gamer’s Rhapsody? What is this event? Where and when is it held?
TS: Gamer’s Rhapsody is a video game convention that celebrates the many aspects of video games. One of our biggest aspects is the amount of musical performances we have. To name a few, there will be: Do A Barrel Roll, Nerd Enhanced Sound, Bards of the Goddesses, The Sunshapes, and about a half-dozen more performances we will be announcing soon that are being finalized. Returning this year is a video game talent show where attendees perform their best rendition of game music, show off their ninja skills, or give us their best comedy routine. There will be a youth strings clinic (also open to all ages) that will have string players perform as a large ensemble and be lead by a conductor, there will be a number of panels on video game music including composition, design, setting up recording space, and more, plus there will even be a cafe where attendees can play music with each other while sipping on complementary Red Bull. That’s just the musical aspect of our event. We also celebrate the development of video games by partnering with Midwest Game Jam to hold a 24 hour game jam, an event that joins developers, composers, and artists to create a video game within 24 hours. In addition, we’ll have a Gamer’s Rhapsody Indie Developers section (or G.R.I.D.) that will show off local developer’s games. Finally, we’ll have typical convention staples like game tournaments with prizes, open play games, fan panels, and a merch area.
The 2016 convention will be held at the Doubletree in St. Louis Park on November 18-20. We have a group hotel rate that provides a nice discount, there’s plenty of food options next to the hotel, and there are two Pokestops in the hotel with about a dozen surrounding it.
MD: How did you bring this idea to fruition? Organizing such an event must be quite an undertaking. Tell us the story of how Gamer’s Rhapsody came to be.
TS: I am a musician, guitar teacher, avid gamer, and event planner, so as I discovered my passion for video game music, I dreamed of creating an event where gamers, musicians, and composers would gather and celebrate their passion for game music. I think the moment where I realized there were a lot of people who shared my passion was when I attended Symphony of the Goddesses for the first time. There were thousands of people who came together to celebrate music from just a single series. In addition, I introduced video game music to my guitar students, and it was the most inspiring genre for them to play from. In college, I took a project management course for my major, and part of the requirements was to execute a project. So I used that course as a launching platform to get Gamer’s Rhapsody going. Our first event was held in Downtown St. Paul at the Doubletree. At the start, I didn’t have the committee I do now to help me with the work, so I pretty much did everything from creating the marketing materials, managing the website, coordinating guests of honor, running social media, and so on. In addition, the events have been self financed mainly from zero percent interest credit cards; any profit made goes directly back into the event (so if you want to see more guests of honor, performances, or sub-events, sign up early!) While it has been a huge undertaking, I’ve met many incredible people, started friendships, went to E3 this year, and best of all, I’ve helped inspire people to start or continue their passion.
MD: While many conventions celebrate and recognize their entertainment medium in broad strokes, Gamer’s Rhapsody seems to cast an eye on the artistic side of the industry specifically. Tell us why you decided to go that route, and how do you execute that vision as an event?
TS: Generally, the social conversation around video games are that they don’t provide value to society, or they aren’t legitimate. I believe if you asked people outside of the broader gaming community if video games are not only an art form, but a revolutionary one, they’d likely laugh at you. Besides my passion for video game music influencing the convention, music is an easy way to tell a story. It’s hard to imagine someone going to one of the many video game music symphony’s and walking out thinking it’s not a valid art form. The same goes for Gamer’s Rhapsody. There’s not much space to celebrate the art of video games, and our convention hopes to fill the void and connect like-minded people.
MD: I personally have always been invested in the creative nature of video games. My office is filled with everything from concept art books to game soundtracks, so this is a passion of mine. Tell us what it is about this medium that speaks to you as a fan?
TS: When I was younger, I would listen to video game music by putting the Playstation CD into my CD player and listen to the tracks that would play. People thought it was kind of strange, but I didn’t care. In forth grade, I competed in a music listening contest and was assigned “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky to study. I learned about how the music was composed for these paintings on exhibition and I really connected with the music. It wasn’t until later that I realized this suite was one of the first compositions for visual media. My interest in orchestral and instrumental music grew; I’d often listen to film soundtracks, video game music, and was studying classical guitar. It wasn’t until I had my first computer in 9th grade that I really discovered there were other people who shared my passion. I was able to find so many soundtracks on YouTube and eventually discovered the video game remix community.
MD: How do you feel video game artistic expression differs from other media like film, or even popular music?
TS: What really compels me to instrumental music is the amount of passion needed to make people feel emotion. With lyrical music, you often concentrate on the meaning behind the words and less on the music itself. The thing that makes video game music really exciting is how you mix the emotion of the music with the immersive gameplay. “Lost Woods” from Ocarina of Time wouldn’t be as memorable in other contexts like film, TV, or other media because it’ll likely not carry a memory with it. When you hear “Lost Woods” outside of the game, you get excited because you remember how long it took for you to get from Kokri Village to the Forest Temple and the challenge that you eventually overcame. The great thing about video game music is how a lot of tracks are brilliant on their own. They can be appreciated by anyone and not just gamers. One of the reasons why I started Gamer’s Rhapsody was to break down the perceptions that say video games and video game music are somehow inferior to other forms of artistic expression simply because the marketing and social conversation said so. Many don’t realize what creating a video game entails and how you’re combining so many media together to create an immersive story telling platform.
MD: When it comes to video game music there are so many great scores, but everyone has a favorite. Can you tell us what yours is? Tell us a little bit about it and why it resonates with you.
TS: There are a lot of great scores out there. I am a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda series and could name tons of soundtracks from there. As I’m finding more music, I’ve been particularly drawn to the Xeno series. Xenogears, Xenosaga, and Xenoblade all have some incredible music. Recently playing Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X, they are two completely different games with different stories. They both include epic adventures but take on their own style. The first title carries a colonial-technological-fantasy feel, and the mix of acoustic instruments with typical garage band set-ups really highlight the mood, especially once you enter Gaur Plains. In X, it’s much more technological focused and the mix of synth and orchestral music creates the right environment. I’m also a big fan of music from Kid Icarus Uprising, Sim City (the new one), Professor Layton, and Final Fantasy. You’ll find that I carry some bias to music that features guitar.
MD: Thanks again for taking time with us. Before we wrap up, where can people find out more about Gamer’s Rhapsody?
TS: Thanks again for letting me share my story! To learn more, go to our website, http://gamersrhapsody.com to get more information, tickets, hotel, or to contact us if they have questions. In addition, they can follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on our announcements.