It’s hard to forget a good video game soundtrack. As a medium that often asks players to stick around for hours on end, video games by necessity strive to include music that you’ll want to listen to forever—which was especially tough in the medium’s earliest days, when technology left composers few sounds to work with. But somehow, miraculously, video games were able to feature timeless, enduring work that’s still a joy to hear—either in its original, crunchy glory or in lovingly arranged, fully orchestrated updates.
Diggin’ in the Carts is a documentary web series about the Japanese composers who pioneered music in games—many of whom remain unknown to those who know every note of their work. Produced and directed by Nick Dwyer and Tu Neill for Red Bull Music Academy, the series examines the evolution of video game music in Japan, from Pac-Man to Street Fighter II and beyond. It speaks to composers like Yoko Shimomura (you can thank her for Guile’s theme, which goes with everything) and Nubuo Uematsu (arguably the most famous and beloved of video game composers), as well as the artists and DJs that have been heavily influenced by games—like Flying Lotus, Ladyhawke, and Just Blaze.
The entire series can be viewed on the Red Bull Music Academy site, along with music mixes from the series’ featured artists and bonus interviews. While the whole six-episode series is worth watching, those on the fence should begin with episode 5, “The Role of Role Play,” which takes a break from the series’ mostly chronological structure to examine the music of Final Fantasy—a franchise universally renowned for its grand and moving scores. Those scores have also frequently been arranged for live performances by full orchestras, which is a great way to appreciate their depth and artfulness.
Not bad for a bunch of bleeps and bloops, right?