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Toe-Tapping Zapping

Game soundtracks struggle for legitimacy in an industry obsessed with killing machines, not killer tunes

Songwriters and composers who venture into game music soon discover how jarring the shift from linear to nonlinear really is. Aside from Thomas Dolby, most pop and rock artists who have tried to score games have failed. Says the Fat Man: "Nine Inch Nails came in and did the second Doom, and everything I heard was that their heart wasn't in it and they didn't understand the technology."

Lately, though, the trend is to get rock stars to contribute pre-existing material to games. It's a cross-pollination that doesn't sit well with many hard-core gamers, who dislike the use of existing songs, like those from the Cardigans, Cypress Hill, Megadeth, the Offspring and a jumble of other marquee acts. A song blaring out of everyone's car window seems out of place while killing an orc.

With the Grammys within reach, the industry hopes that game companies will take audio more seriously and perhaps dedicate a little more of a video game's budget -- from $1.2 million to $1.5 million on average -- to music.

"If they were to look at the percentage of their resources that goes into audio," says the Fat Man, "and compare that to the percentage of the entertainment experience to which audio contributes, they would find that the leverage is irresistible and untapped."

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