Assassins’ Creed Valhalla took home the very first Grammy awarded for video game music.
For the 2023 Grammy Awards, The Recording Academy introduced the category ‘Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media.’ The eligibility requirement for this award would be for scores expressly written for, or as a companions to, current video games, as well as other interactive media. The original composer or composers would receive the award. Furthermore, nominees don’t have to be members of The Recording Academy. They do need to be suggested by either a member of the Academy, or a media company registered with the Academy.
As reported by Dexerto, Stephania Economou received the distinct honor of being the first winner of this award for the Assassins’ Creed Valhalla soundtrack.
Also nominated for the award were Austin Wintory, for Aliens: Fireteam Elite, Bear Mcreary, for Call of Duty Vanguard, Richard Jacques, for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Christopher Tin, for Old World.
Prior to this, the indie game Journey received a nomination for the category ‘Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media’ in 2013. That category was usually reserved for films, TV shows, and series, but Journey’s inclusion seemed to indicate that The Recording Academy had an interest in recognizing composers for their work in video games as well as other media.
While this was a groundbreaking move by the US’ Royal Academy, they are long behind the curve in introducing this category for their awards. The BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) had long been recognizing video game composers, as well as the video game industry in general. They introduced the BAFTA Games Awards in 2004, and have separate categories for Music and Audio Achievement.
America’s closest equivalent to BAFTA, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences have also yet to reorganize and include video games industry to their fold for distinction. The closest video games have received recognition from that Academy was when Double Fine video game Everything qualified for an Animated Short Film Oscar nomination in 2017, thanks to its winning the jury award at the 2017 Vienna Shorts Festival. Even then, it is only loosely eligible based on the fact that it can play itself, turning it into an animated short.
Most gamers think of The Game Awards, and before that, the SpikeTV Video Game Awards, as the game industry’s equivalent for the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys for noteworthiness and esteem. However,it’s actually the GDC Awards that would represent nominations and awards for video games from a jury of their peers, like those of the two academies.
Still, composers like Bear Mcreary don’t really see any real distinction in their work between video games and other media. Bear worked on Call of Duty Vanguard and Masters of the Universe Revelation in the same year, and he’s also working on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power now.
The Recording Academy saw correctly that composers deserve recognition for their work in video games and other media. Now, composers can look forward to that recognition today and in the future.