Game Music Live – An Introduction

JGMF - Insert Coin

During my final few months in Japan, I attended the second Japan Game Music Festival. Held in Zepp Tokyo on the artificial island of Odaiba, hundreds of game music fans came together to see in-house game bands from some of the biggest game developers in the world perform live on stage. That’s right, these are not just performances of game music live – these are the composers themselves playing the music. Some of whom have been performing live for upwards of twenty years. But this is no strange feat in Japan. While they never see the success or sales of charting artists, they have core fans with the same visible devotion to their work. I am one of these fans.

The only person I’ve seen rock keytars better than these good folks is Stevie Wonder himself.

Music is important; this is especially true the case of game music. It’s the integral part that sets the tone of what we are playing. Music can take us back to a moment in time; whether it be a moment in our lives or the rush we felt watching the intro of Sonic Adventure for the first time. Going to a gig of one of your favourite bands is almost always a visceral experience, but when you are listening to a live performance of music from a game you’ve lived inside and out, perhaps for hundreds of hours, it’s euphoric.

SEGA Sound Unit [H.] meet Danny
SEGA Sound Unit [H.] meet Danny

You’d think the composers and musicians from big-name companies like Square-Enix and SEGA wouldn’t be approachable. Perhaps guarded behind stagehands or security. Not so. Everyone I met at the show was perfectly humble to both myself and other fans. In fact, artists at the Japan Game Music Festival tended to wander outside the venue after they had performed, more than happy to meet, greet and treat their fans to photo ops and signatures.

Very few of the artists hold back on stage either. The only person I’ve seen rock keytars better than these good folks is Stevie Wonder himself. Depending on who was on stage and the kind of music being performed at any given time, listeners were liable to be standing up bobbing heads, waving hands, nodding or chilling out in unison. Fully absorbed, completely immersed and entranced by the music.

JGMF audience

There is something about Japanese game music in particular that just strikes the right chord with me. Perhaps it’s all rose-tinted nostalgia of my youth, but who cares if it is? The fact of the matter is that if you’re into games there’s bound to be some kind of game music, theme song or tune that fills you with ecstasy the moment you hear it. It’s the reason why Smooth McGroove’s acapella covers of game themes get millions of hits and gives you goosebumps whilst simultaneously making you feel like a huge nerd at the same time.

At the moment there just aren’t enough opportunities to see game music over here. Sure, we had Video Games Live in the past and we’ve had the Symphony of the Goddesses and Distant Worlds orchestrations in Europe more recently. But wouldn’t you like to see something like the Japan Game Music festival over here once a year? I believe there are plenty of passionate game music fans across the UK and Europe – perhaps we’re just not vocal enough yet.

I asked eleven game music bands and duos who performed at the Japan Game Music Festival about their backstories, performing live and what they thought about the idea performing live in the West. Over the coming months we’ll be rolling out interviews with Crush 40, Falcom jdkBAND, LivestRow Basiscape Band, Mitsuo Suzuki x Sugimoto Tomoyuki, Nanaa Mihgo’s, SEGA Sound Unit [H.], TEKARU The Death March, The Musicolors, Yumi Kawamura x Lotus Juice and ZUNTATA. Many of these bands have never had the opportunity to speak out to their Western fans – so please make your voice heard if you’d like to drum up support for them to perform on our side of the world.

Stay tuned!






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