With Hamilton sweeping the nation and the Tony Awards experiencing record-high viewership, Musical Theater is more popular than ever.
Both the PS4 and Xbox One are outpacing their respective predecessors. Record-shattering sales from developer studios as small as one person, or as large as a thousand. Publishing a game is easier than ever, which has led to an incredibly diverse lineup of gameplay experiences. It’s the best time to be a gamer.
Surely, there must be overlap between these two growing communities. What better way to ensure vocal rest than reclined on a couch, controller in hand, exploring any number of virtual worlds that video games offer? Personally, I’ve been opting for the battle arenas of Overwatch, before complaining on stage for a couple hours in The Last Five Years. And, well, maybe some Pokémon Go during the commutes.
Both forms of entertainment explore non-conventional storytelling strategies. They encourage imagination and practice efficient world building. The rules of Musical Theater world, the way it is allowed to operate in a fashion different from the real world, are not at all dissimilar from the rules of a video game.
Assuming there is sizable overlap in the audiences, what would a successful musical theatre inspired video game look like?
Maybe you look at rhythm and music games for inspiration. The most recent iterations in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises were greeted with dull roars of pleasure, by this I mean that there won’t be encore performances anytime soon…
(I’m pausing for laughter. You have to remember to pause for laughter in the theater).
A myriad of musical melodies may be exactly how the ‘Guitar Heroes’ of the world get redemption. The newest rhythm games were critiqued for below-average track listings and a lack of new features. A whole new world of show tunes is eager to be discovered and could be exactly what music games need for an adequate refresh.
This game would strictly appeal to those that want to perform show tunes. An adequate challenger to the reliable karaoke machine, but we can do better. Plus, I would miss karaoke-Tuesday.
Forget music games, think big picture. The necessary micromanaging required to produce a musical would make it a perfect fit for a simulation game. SimCity, RollerCoaster Tycoon, one of those! Call it Musical Manager, or ShowStopper!… Name suggestions will be accepted in the comments section below.
Players would need to hire a production team, make decisions based on applications and references. You sit in on auditions with your appointed director and help choose the actors with the most panache! Book enough theaters and produce enough hits to get the attention of the big dogs and eventually work on a new show on Broadway!
(I’m pausing for laughter here. The idea of a new show on Broadway is funny, trust me, go with it).
A simulation game would provide a jolly look into the largely undisclosed side of the theater. Worst case scenario, you gain a newfound love and respect for your high school drama teacher (thanks, Ms. Rhinehart!). I’ve never been much for the casual grind of simulation games, let’s move on to the next option.
A Musical Theater RPG is the big ticket option. First you choose a class, you know: Diva, Techie, Director, Chorus-lad, whatever. Then you embark on an adventure to be the best theatre-group around. A high school or college setting would allow for Persona-like social links. Make friends, recruit them to your cause and peer-pressure them enough to show up at auditions.
Aside from social and story-based elements, the heart of the gameplay would be in its turn-based battle system. Tech-based players build whatever tools necessary to dispatch their opponents, while singers can stun foes by nailing those high notes. Look to Scott Pilgrim for inspiration.
Now, you may be thinking, what kind of battles are theatre kids getting into? It’s a dangerous world out there, we’re talking Jets and Sharks dangerous. The wide-receiver on the football team might need some of his friends taken care of before he’s convinced to join the cast of West Side Story. Or maybe the principal of the school needs some extra-convincing before you can increase the budget to afford those cool T-Bird jackets for Grease.
Musical Theatre, at its heart, is about storytelling. The best option for a Musical Theatre game would feature an original story with a memorable ensemble cast. Focus on creating a great story, while letting musical theatre be a part of it.
Or just license a Hamilton video game, because I would not throw away my shot to play as Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Sound off in the comments with your ideas for a Musical game! As a bonus, check out this song from COLLEGE: The Musical, it’s about games!
The ball is in your court, developers!