Tripod members’ interest in video games isn’t quite an obsession, says Steven Gates – but it is certainly a passion.
“The three of us are very different … we come from different places, but one thing we do have in common is an interest in video games.
“We’re ’70s kids, so that stems from seeing the pinball machines getting changed over to video games at the local swimming pool and suddenly being completely enamoured with these blips and bloops and stuff.
“Watching the whole industry go from coin-operated slot machines to an artform has been just thrilling and it keeps getting more interesting. It’s turning into the biggest entertainment form that we currently have.”
For This Gaming Life, to be presented with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival next month, Gates (Gatesy) and his fellow Tripod members Simon Hall (Yon) and Scott Edgar (Scod) have written a series of humorous songs looking at relationships surrounding the gaming world.
The show is directed by Andrew Pogson, director of special projects with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and a long-time Tipod fan who hosts the group’s fortnightly podcast. It was Pogson who facilitated their collaboration with American gaming and film-score composer Austin Wintory.
“We went ahead and wrote this show about video game passion and sent over to LA to Austin all the recordings and demos,” Gates says.
“He arranged it for a 60-piece orchestra and sent back these tapes with computer-generated orchestras.
“He took the songs in a completely different place, a non-conventional place … he turned them into his own, and that was thrilling.”
Tripod wanted This Gaming Life to have broad audience appeal, rather than just “pandering to the geek culture”.
One of the songs captures the discussion between a woman and her husband who is engrossed in a video game. Another, “Shut Down”, harks back to 1992, when Gates was a university student and tried – unsuccessfully – to interest his newsagency-manager father in the city-building game Sim City.
“Skyrim”, about the popular role-playing game of the same name, looks at different characters created by Edgar and Gates.
“We get to hear Scott’s various characters he’s created and how he wants to express himself via the game – then we get to me and it’s a true story,” Gates says.
“My girlfriend at the time travelled a lot. She was an international showbiz star. And she gave me the game, saying, ‘This will look after you while I’m gone’. So I made the character to look like her.”
He pauses briefly, before acknowledging this “could be construed as sweet or creepy, but it was just my way of being with her in that three-month period”.
“It kind of ends up being quite a sad song about missing someone and trying my best to be close to that person.”
Although Tripod have created numerous musicals and previously collaborated with a range or artists such as Megan Washington, Eddie Perfect and Goyte, they had never performed with an orchestra until they presented This Gaming Life with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at last year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival.
It was the realisation of a long-held dream, says Gates, and they are thrilled the show will now have a second life at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
There is a certain reverence in performing with an orchestra – “We wear tuxes, certainly at the start. We make an effort” – but the concert still incorporates Tripod’s trademark comedic elements, with the members at times interacting with the musicians.
“There’s a dance number … hmm, dance is a really strong word actually; a movement piece maybe.”
Gates admits to feeling somewhat overawed during the first live performance with the MSO, saying he was determined to be “in the moment” and savour the experience of singing with 60 musicians.
“Quite often I just turned around and watched and listened to the orchestra play our music, which was just a thrill.
“I was so in the moment at times that I’d miss a cue.”
As for his all-time favourite video games, Gates – who admits to a strong nostalgic streak – nominates the “obscure” post-apocalyptic car game Interstate 76 and PacMan.
“I think PacMan is the greatest video game of all time, still.
“I think there was a magical time back when we all discovered video games and because of the limits of the technology, they had to create bizarre worlds that didn’t in any way reflect reality, so you have this strange disc thing chomping on these dots and being chased by ghosts – I mean, who comes up with that shit?
“It still stands up. I’ve still got it on my phone and I still play it.”
Tripod and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra will present This Gaming Life at the Festival Theatre on June 11 as part of the 2016 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which opens on June 10.