Mockingjay N7 Interview: More than a Fan

Behind every great artist, is a great fan. Today, I spoke with one such fan, Mockingjay N7, who has supported several artists in the VGM community. In fact, you’ve probably seen his name displayed in countless “Thanks to my Patrons” sections. I had the privilege of speaking with this singular fan about his passion for VGM and why he continues to support so many within the VGM community.

As a constant companion, VGM has been a soundtrack to my life.

How did you discover the VGM community?

I grew up with VGM, and some of my first experiences as a kid on the Internet were searching for and playing around with MIDIs from games like Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger downloaded over a 56k modem. By the time MP3s started getting popular, I was listening to many of the songs from OverClocked Remix as well as CDs featuring fully orchestrated versions of video game music. These songs took the source material and really elevated it in a way that rivaled television and movie soundtracks.  

For decades, I have listened to VGM in the background as I read, studied, and worked, and it helped provide me motivation and focus all the way through grad school, the start of my career, and my own projects. As a constant companion, VGM has been a soundtrack to my life.

By 2015, I remember searching YouTube for Mass Effect 2 music and hearing some awesome metal versions, eventually coming across LittleVMills and listening to his "Metal Effect" album. I then went back through his YouTube videos, and while going through them, I came across one announcing that he was starting a Patreon page.

Just as I had enjoyed his music and the music that so many others had created over the years, I thought that perhaps this could be a way of giving back and being part of something that was so important to me. So around 2015, inspired by my love of the Hunger Games and Mass Effect franchises, I created my Patreon account under the name Mockingjay N7 and began supporting LittleVMills and others in the VGM community on Patreon.

I eventually learned of MAGFest (Music and Gaming Festival) and met not only LittleVMills there, but also met many others in the VGM community, and I have supported many of them ever since.

What was so appealing about the community?

Having been immersed in VGM for so long, something that I wanted to do was to go from being just a passive listener to an active participant in an actual community.  Supporting many in the VGM community was a way to stay engaged and learn more about each person's works and also about them.

Also, having gone from only knowing of so many in the VGM community through YouTube to meeting so many of them in person at MAGFest, I felt that the VGM community was very welcoming, collaborative, and open to trying out new technologies and platforms.

Have you ever tried making VGM covers yourself?

When I was listening to VGM MIDIs in the 90s, I remember being able to play around with how the same themes sounded using different simulated instruments, reimagining familiar themes in new ways.

Also, I actually played a lot of rhythm games like Rez, Amplitude, and Frequency and then eventually Guitar Hero and Rock Band.  One thing that I really enjoyed was that each of them allowed me to play along with music and express a degree of creativity without having to have mastered one or multiple instruments.  

Playing Rock Band and being able to upgrade and customize gear for your band was also partly an inspiration for my supporting the VGM community since supporting the VGM community feels like continually upgrading the quality of their content and their ability to perform and tour.

Who was the first VGM artist that you remember supporting on Patreon? What drove that decision to support them?

I first supported LittleVMills and a number of others that I initially met at MAGFest.

How many VGM artists do you currently support on Patreon?

I currently support around 50 VGM artists and have supported many of them for over three years. I try to watch for new people who are starting out, often finding out about them when they collaborate with people I've been supporting or they submit entries to VGM cover contests.

Who are some of your favorite VGM artists and why?

Everyone that I support has some kind of content that I've really enjoyed, but the following are some of my favorites. First, I really like the metal covers of ToxicxEternity, LittleVMills, and FamilyJules since they can all capture the epic rock of so many hard-hitting tracks. Second, I like Adriana Figueroa, TeraCMusic, and Julia Henderson for their amazing vocal work that adds so much to tracks, including new lyrics. Lastly, I'll also include Jackson Parodi as a category all his own with his energetic and often improvised accordion works.

What makes the VGM community special to you?

Before getting the chance to meet people in the VGM community in person, I had previously only seen people in a convention-like atmosphere by attending concerts like Video Games Live starting in 2007. I was so impressed by the live performances from the National Symphony Orchestra, and I would see them whenever they came by on tour.  

However, one thing that stuck with me at one of the concerts was when the event organizers brought out Laura Intravia to perform her flute arrangements of Zelda. I remember watching her play and thinking how great it was to combine an orchestra with someone who was truly passionate about the game and the music itself.

With that said, the VGM community is special to me since it allows so many people to be creative with so many different interpretations of familiar tracks from so many franchises. As the VGM community grows, I see it increasingly combining the excellent music production with an open and shared passion for the material.

The VGM community is not only the musical artists, but also many other people who have unique talents and can contribute in their own way.

Aside from Patreon, what's the best way to support VGM artists in your opinion?

 Many people in the VGM community digital distribute their music so it’s always great to support them and build up your own music library.  

 Otherwise, many of them have also recently embraced Twitch, and that’s a great way to experience live music and get to know both the artist and their other fans in the community. In that way, the VGM community is not only the musical artists, but also many other people who have unique talents and can contribute in their own way.

How many times have you been to MAGFest?

I've been to the last four MAGFest events and plan to keep going to each one in the future.

What's been your favorite MAGFest experience?

My favorite MAGFest experiences have been the various musical performances, including seeing some of the VGM community play live in Jamspaces or on stage.  I've also been impressed by other musical acts such as recently seeing Frank Klepacki and the Tiberian Suns play metal versions of Command and Conquer tracks.

Where do you see the VGM community going in the next few years?

I see the VGM community becoming more professional in terms of equipment and more engaging with their fans. Platforms like Twitch, Discord, and Twitter have supplemented YouTube videos by allowing for real-time or near-real-time discussions and sharing of information between fans and artists and between artists as well.

In addition, different people in the community have different goals in mind, but I see many of them being able to keep advancing towards those goals, whether that be playing live at a show, going on tour, expanding their audiences, creating VGM for game publishers, and more. Overall, I see a lot of opportunities for growth and further collaboration.

If there's one thing that you could change about the VGM community, what would it be?

While high-quality videos and music are always great, I encourage the VGM community to continue experimenting with new technologies and ways to make the VGM community even more interactive and innovative. For example, at a MAGFest from a few years ago, the organizers did a live concert of the game Journey and had people playing through the game in person with the music syncing up to their actions in-game.

Since video games themselves are very well-suited to being played live in multiplayer, I've always liked the idea of VGM artists being able to provide live music to accompany the gameplay. I've seen some recent examples like FamilyJules' Twitch stream playing music to Super Mario Maker 2 levels which themselves can be custom-generated by the community. I think it would be great to do new things like try having people play live in other venues like Games Done Quick, Zeldathon, and other game speed-running events and try to help combine communities that have a shared love of gaming.

Overall, I am excited about how the VGM community is leveraging these new technologies—finding interesting and novel ways to collaborate—and I am proud to be a part of it.

I think I speak for all of us in the VGM community when I say that we are glad you’re a part of this community. Thank you, Mockingjay N7.