The Grammy Awards have technically encompassed videogame soundtracks in the category of "Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media," although in practice game music was shut out: Only once was a game composer nominated in the category, that being Austin Wintory for his work on Journey in 2013. Earlier this year, the Grammys announced the creation of a dedicated category for "Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media," awarded to the composer or composers responsible for "an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, video games and other interactive media."
Here's who's in the running for 2022:
- Aliens: Fireteam Elite - Austin Wintory, composer
- Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok - Stephanie Economou, composer
- Call Of Duty: Vanguard - Bear McCreary, composer
- Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy - Richard Jacques, composer
- Old World - Christopher Tin, composer
These things are entirely subjective and I certainly don't presume to be an expert in the field, but to my mind it's not the most invigorating selection of games and composers I've ever seen. It's like a list of easy checkboxes: Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, a Marvel license, Austin Wintory—the only guy ever to be nominated for game work—and Christopher Tin, who actually won a Grammy for game music (Baba Yetu) but in a non-gaming context.
I have no doubt that all of the nominees are excellent, but they don't say to me that the Grammy people went especially deep to find the category contenders. Compare the Grammy nominees with those from The Game Awards, which also gave a nod (and ultimately a win) to Bear McCreary, but for an entirely different game:
- Olivier Deriviere - A Plague Tale: Requiem
- Tsukasa Saitoh - Elden Ring
- Bear McCreary - God of War: Ragnarok - WINNER
- Two Feathers - Metal Hellsinger
- Yasunori Mitsuda - Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Much of this may be due to the way the Grammy nominations are made. Unlike the specialist Game Awards, the Grammys are all about the music industry as a whole. That means it covers a much broader range of genres and sources, and also that its processes are more old school: Grammy nominations are made by either members of the Recording Academy, or by record labels or media companies that have registered with the Recording Academy. So if, for instance, you're an indie developer with a cool game and a great soundtrack, but you didn't realize you had to join the Recording Academy to submit it for consideration, you're out of luck. (The deadline for soundtracks to be eligible for consideration is September 30, but the deadline to register with the academy in order to submit your work was August 24.) It also costs money to submit work for consideration.
Separate from all that, there seemed to be some odd timing issues going on with a couple of nominees, too. The Grammy website says the "product eligibility period" for work submitted for consideration is October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022. But Aliens: Fireteam Elite came out on August 24, 2021, and Old World launched on July 1, 2021—both well outside the eligibility window.
The Grammys explained this discrepancy in an email sent the day after our story went live: Submissions for music in the visual media category, which includes games, are not based on when the movie, show, or game in question was released, but on the release date of the soundtrack album instead. The Aliens: Fireteam Elite soundtrack dropped on September 30, 2022, more than a year after the release of the game and the final day of eligibility for the 2023 Grammys; Christoper Tin's Old World soundtrack came out on October 29, 2021, more than a year ago but still within the eligibility window.
It's a reasonable compromise as far as it goes, but the restrictiveness of the Grammy process when dealing with a new kind of media could be a big problem in the long run. It's happened before: In 2019 the Writers Guild of America scrapped its videogame award category because their weren't enough nominations, a situation driven in large part by the WGA's equally exclusionary eligibility rules.
The 2023 Grammy Awards will take place on February 5, 2023, and will be broadcast live from the Crypto.com arena, assuming its exposure in the FTX catastrophe doesn't force a name change before then.