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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Video games are a multi-billion dollar industry. And today, many of the bestselling games have blockbuster budgets, which you can see on the screen and often hear in the music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "HALO" THEME)

INSKEEP: There's the grand orchestral theme from the bestselling game "Halo." But for many gamers, the best soundtracks recall a low-tech era. And every year they celebrate those soundtracks at a video game music festival.

NPR's Lindsay Totty has more.

LINDSAY TOTTY, BYLINE: Earlier this month, thousands of gamers congregated at a hotel outside Washington, D.C., to spend a weekend playing and listening to classic video games like this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "CORRIDOR OF TIME" THEME)

TOTTY: This is music from a 1995 video game called "Chrono Trigger," an epic time-travel adventure. The technology used to make this digital sound is pretty old-school, but the music has a whole new life when you hear it live.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "CORRIDOR OF TIME" THEME)

ARMCANNON: (Performance)

TOTTY: Welcome to MAGFest. It stands for Music and Gaming Festival. Notice that music first.

Daniel Behrens plays guitar for the band Armcannon. They perform rock tributes to music from old video games like what we just heard. He says it takes real skill to perform video game music because a game system can make sounds that human fingers can't.

DANIEL BEHRENS: There are virtuoso people everywhere you look. And that is one of the things that really made me fall in love with MAGFest and the video game music scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

TOTTY: Behrens adds that classic game music is about melodies rather than atmosphere. In the past, you couldn't fit a whole orchestra on those small game cartridges.

Amanda LePre is a guitarist with the band Descendants of Erdrick. She says it's those unique melodies that make old 8-bit tunes memorable years later.

AMANDA LEPRE: Even "Super Mario Brothers..."

(SOUNDBITE OF LEPRE'S SOUND EFFECT)

LEPRE: You know, it's got this beat to it. It's catchy.

(SOUNDBITE OF "SUPER MARIO BROS.")

LEPRE: Just because it was in one of the most popular games of all time, that's not the only reason people remember the song. 'Cause it's a catchy song, it's got a good melody.

TOTTY: And to show that good melodies can come from anywhere, her band performed a medley from a lesser known game called "Journey to Silius."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "JOURNEY TO SILIUS")

DESCENDANTS OF ERDRICK: (Performance)

TOTTY: But the most anticipated performance came from a rock band made up of actual video game music composers. Earthbound Papas came all the way from Japan. The band's leader and keyboardist is Nobuo Uematsu. He's the primary composer for the "Final Fantasy" series, which is one of the bestselling game franchises of all time.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "CLASH ON THE BIG BRIDGE")

EARTHBOUND PAPPAS: (Performance)

TOTTY: Uematsu echoes the thought that it's melody that makes for great game music.

NOBUO UEMATSU: (Through Translator) It's pretty easy for me to come up with melodies. Twenty-four hours a day, it's in my head all the time. And I struggle to choose which ones to use.

TOTTY: The music from "Final Fantasy" has been performed by orchestras around the world. But Uematsu says the fans at MAGFest are special.

UEMATSU: (Through Translator) Perhaps games are kind of minor things still, so because of that there's a strong bond within the community.

TOTTY: But that community is growing. Over 6,000 people came to this year's festival, almost double the attendance from last year.

Lindsay Totty, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "THOSE WHO FIGHT FURTHER")

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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