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The Grammy Awards are getting with the times and adding a category specifically for video game soundtracks. Well, that and four others, including Songwriter of the Year (Non-classical), Best Alternative Music Performance, Best Americana Performance and Best Spoken Word Poetry Album. There’s also a new award for special merit being added, called Best Song for Social Change.

Specifically, the description of the video game category reads like this. 

“Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media: Recognizes excellence in score soundtrack albums comprised predominantly of original scores and created specifically for, or as a companion to, a current video game or other interactive media released within the qualification period.”

That sounds pretty good, and the addition of ‘any other interactive media’ neatly puts a pin in arguments about what actually qualifies as a video game. Some of you might be wondering, if that’s what the category looks like now, what did it look like before?

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Time for a little bit of history.

How it started

To get an idea of how slowly award shows move on this kind of thing, it’s been over a decade since video games even got their own billing. Before 2011 video games got included in the ‘other visual media’ part of the category. Only television and film received their own separate billing.

Which wasn’t the worst thing ever, since a decade prior game soundtracks weren’t eligible for nominations.

Award shows move slowly, and the people who run them are slow to change. Comparatively, the games industry moves fast. The same year that video games got actual recognition in a category, a song originally produced for a video game won an award.

Christopher Tin’s Baba Yetu won the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists category, and suddenly video game music was a legitimate thing. The Grammys responded in 2012 by changing the category’s name to Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.

In 2012 Thatgamecompany’s Journey, composed by Austin Wintory, received a nomination. It was the video game industry’s first official nomination. It didn’t win (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo took the category) but it goes to show how quickly aspects of our industry move. In 2012 video games still sported some amount of social stigma. People were expecting bleeps and bloops and instead got an emotionally resonant orchestral score.

How it’s going

Of course, a video game hasn’t scored a nomination since Journey. So take from that what you will. Or, maybe, ask why this year video games received a separate category. For the glass-half-full crowd I submit it’s because video game composers deserve as much recognition as any other composers.

For the glass-half-empty crowd I submit The Grammy Awards’ viewership numbers have been declining for years.

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