EIGF '04: Electronic Arts' Steve Schnur
"Videogames are the new Rock'n'Roll." Being presented by anyone else, a keynote speech with this excessively neophiliac title would risk being seen as pretentious; but there can be few people quite as qualified to speak on exactly this topic as Steve Schnur. When he takes to the stage at the Edinburgh International Games Festival on Thursday morning to present the so-titled music keynote at the event, it will be as someone who has experienced both industries - having left a role as senior vice president of A&R at global music company Capitol Records to move to leading game publisher Electronic Arts worldwide executive for music.
So when Steve Schnur says that videogames are the new Rock'n'Roll, it's a statement worth following up - and when Steve Schnur follows that up with the bold claim that videogames are a "natural cultural destination" for popular music, you know that his hour-long presentation is going to be worth listening to. We caught up with him ahead of the Festival to find out a little more about what to expect from his keynote, and his thoughts on the event as a whole.
"Rock & Roll and videogames are almost identical twins," according to Schnur. "They've both fought Ã¢â'¬â and still fight - many of the same battles." It's a statement which is even more relevant than ever this week, as the recent media frenzy surrounding Manhunt - a game developed only a few miles from Edinburgh - dies down at last. The comparisons with the accusations faced in decades past by Rock & Roll, and later by rap music, are striking.
"Consumers now spend more time playing video games than listening to the radio or watching TV," Schnur continues. "And one hard fact is already clear: Video games have changed the way the world hears music. Thirty-two years after the first electronic blips of Pong, videogames - and the music we can deliver within them - are becoming the most essential new cultural force of our time."
Schnur's keynote will discuss this emerging cross-over between the worlds of music and videogames, and explore EA's new strategy to music. It's an explorative and not particularly commercial keynote - which makes it ideal to start off the Edinburgh conference programme.
"This industry is first and foremost a creative one, filled with new ideas, intelligent people to explore these ideas and emerging technologies to allow that exploration," Schnur says of the EIGF conference. "This cannot be forgotten as this business continues to grow." However, he doesn't believe that the event will be without its commercial relevance. "For obvious reasons it sits right at the launch of our core selling season; our most important time of year," he says. "This enables us as an industry to look and discuss what is coming ahead and what we have learned from the past."
While the Edinburgh Festival has been the first major cultural event to accept videogames into the fold - in general the industry has built its own events, such as E3, London Games Week and the Tokyo Games Show, rather than joining into larger cultural festivals - Schnur believes that this is a trend which will be adopted more widely in future.
"All festivals will hopefully soon realize that video gaming is perhaps the fastest-growing form of entertainment our global culture has ever seen," he predicts confidently. "Social and cultural bonds are constantly created over games, ones that shape our adolescence and became a permanent part of our adult selves."
And finally, we ask, which of the EIGF conference events is he most looking forward to? "4pm on Thursday: Tea and Networking," he tells us. Well, the Scottish do make a pretty impressive cup of tea...