It was the unique rush of being in a crowded venue listening to live music that we craved the most during lockdown, and there was nothing else we could have asked for. Many artists were still awaiting opportunities to perform on stages, which resulted in some of the best in-game concerts of all time taking place over the past 18 months.
Virtual worlds ranging from Fortnite to Minecraft have hosted thousands of music fans in some of the most popular virtual worlds in the world. Many people turned to virtual worlds in order to log on and share in the collective joy of live music when the venues’ doors were locked shut. Below is a collection of some of the most bizarre and wonderful attempts to transform a gaming space into a legitimate music venue, ranging from artistic audiovisual installations to more traditional gig recreations.
TRAVIS SCOTT’S ASTRONOMICAL (FORTNITE)
We all know that no one puts on a better virtual show than the Fortnite crew, and that includes you. The game’s sprawling battle royale map is transformed into the biggest party you’ve ever seen, with Travis Scott’s latest album being transformed into a jaw-dropping audiovisual experience to match. Travis Scott appears in the game once more, this time in Godzilla proportions. A brilliantly animated model of Travis can be seen dancing around the center of the map, straddling the beach, and stomping around a slew of islands like some kind of bar-spewing demigod.
This musical performance, like the majority of the others on this list, does not take place in a live setting. In fact, attending ‘Astronomical’ felt less like attending a concert and more like becoming an extra in an incredibly cool music video. This was due to the pre-recorded, but DJ-set-like flow of the set and the pristine studio vocals.
While witnessing one of these incredible artistic events will never be the same as attending a concert, what Fortnite accomplished here captured the attention of the entire world. The concert was a resounding success as an example of audiovisual art, and with Travis’ nine-minute set flowing expertly between verses of his biggest hits and ending with the rapper straddling the moon, it demonstrated that there truly isn’t a party quite like a Fortnite party, and it helped Epic Games establish itself as a forward-thinking host when it comes to producing the best in-game concerts.
ARIANA GRANDE (FORTNITE)
After generating headlines and awe-inspiring fans with their most recent concert, Fortnite developer Epic Games was left wondering how they could possibly top Travis Scott. The solution was straightforward: book Ariana Grande. Starting with a celestial skateboarding segment in which Ariana rode a colorful highway SSX-style before falling into a furry field, this bonkers vibrant virtual adventure was an explosion of color from beginning to end.
Because it did away with the traditional Fortnite map, this new world felt less like a concert that had been squeezed into Fortnite and more like being transported directly into Ariana Grande’s mind. Giving creative control to an artist and their team in this manner really helps transform these experiences from something that is only vaguely interesting to something that is one of the best in-game concerts of all time.
The entire experience, from the theme park-inspired, mini-game-filled intro to the trippy, celestial rendition of ‘7 Rings,’ was flawless. Fortnite has done it again with this one. For the second time, this ethereal fusion of art and music came together to create something entirely new and original. Whereas many Roblox concerts have a similar feel to them, Ariana Grande X Fortnite demonstrates just how versatile Fortnite’s “metaverse” can be as a performance platform.
Through the use of interactive elements such as mini-games and other interactive elements, this sugary-sweet endorphin ride felt infinitely more interactive than Travis Scott’s performance, putting the player right in the middle of it all. As a result, what happened? Something that didn’t quite feel like a game or an arena show, but something that was completely different.
BLOCK BY BLOCKWEST (MINECRAFT)
While some admirable attempts have been made to replicate the concert-going experience at home, nothing has come close to capturing the atmosphere of a festival. Hopping between stages, the excitement of discovering new music, and the unexpected joy that comes from dipping in and out of various acts and genres is, for me, the essence of what it means to be a true fan of live music.
To their credit, organizers The Courier Club attempted to recreate the seminal Texas music festival South By Southwest – complete with a Minecraft set – and were largely successful. Block By Blockwest, a livestreamed Minecraft event that saw fans hop between different servers to check out a plethora of incredible bands, was aptly named. The lineup, which included everyone from Nothing Nowhere to Fever 333, Citizen, IDLES, and Pussy Riot, was genuinely fantastic and included everyone.
While some bands stuck to the traditional studio track set, the performances that spliced in pre-existing audio from live performances with some specifically recorded new show chat were the real winners here. From the joyful alt-rock of Against the Current, which got the blocky masses onto their low poly feet, to the riotous energy of Fever 333, these performances came the closest yet to capturing the rush of live music in a virtual space. Against the Current is a band from the United Kingdom that performs alt-rock.
ROYAL BLOOD (ROBLOX)
When The Blocky’s made an appearance halfway through Roblox’s annual award ceremony, the groove-driven duo from Brighton brought some no-frills, dirty rock’n’roll to the virtual world. This is one of very few genuinely live performances to have graced a video game, despite the fact that it lacks some of the pomp and ceremony of some of the slicker fully animated virtual showcases. For this reason alone, the game would be a strong contender for a spot on this list of the best in-game concerts.
The majority of bands rely on game developers to animate their avatars to their studio versions of their songs (as evidenced by almost every other performance on this list), but this riffy duo brought an incredibly polished and faultless live rock performance to a video game. What’s the best part? The result was not only the extinction of a genre, but also the introduction of a whole new generation to live guitar music. Isn’t it a win-win situation?
HOSPITALITY IN THE VOID/ON THE GRID (MINECRAFT)
Drum and bass (DNB) nights, which feature spectacular light shows, pounding bass, and more than a few googly-eyed Garys, used to be one of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day at the office. Hospital Records, which holds the distinction of hosting the biggest and best DNB events in the United Kingdom, decided to bring the bass to the block during lockdown to celebrate.
Of course, I’m referring to the video game Minecraft. These Minecraft mess fests, which hosted not one, but two retro-looking raves, allowed ravers to enjoy some subwoofer-bothering sets from the likes of S.P.Y and London Elektricity, among others.
Observing hundreds of players swarm around a massive blocky rave venue was utterly bizarre, but it was also surprisingly heartwarming to witness. With some excellent commentary from Tony (also known as Hospital Records’ owner, London Elektricity himself), as well as a lobby that exuded a generally joyful and friendly vibe, it was the closest thing to a good night out that had occurred since the start of the lockdown.
While we can’t wait to get back into the club and experience some gurning faces and bowel-shaking bass, there’s something to be said for raving in the absence of some jerk gobbing on your shoe in the smoking area.
KORN (ADVENTURE QUEST 3D)
When the noughties nu-metal kings KoRn decided to jump on the virtual gig bandwagon in 2019, they chose a virtual venue that was appropriately weird and murky-looking – Adventure Quest 3D. KoRn’s Adventure Quest performance cleverly transformed a sticky mosh pit into an MMO dungeon, despite the fact that this niche and blocky-looking MMO lacks the visual flair and grandiosity of Fortnite.
After listening to pre-recorded versions of classics like “Freak On A Leash,” Jonathon Davis’ scat-loving quintet found themselves dispatching some very literal freaks who were revealed to be “off their leash” by text prompts while thousands of players expressed themselves in the medieval mosh pit.
Okay, it may not have been the pinnacle of musical or gaming sophistication, but after all, this is KoRn we’re discussing. Although this dungeon-based approach did not meet the standards of today’s best in-game concerts, it did offer a truly unique interactive twist on the traditional gamer concert, with each of the band’s subsequent songs inspiring another loosely themed boss fight.
Sure, the lack of live recordings from a “proper” band was a disappointment, but the entire dungeon-meets-concert concept was amusingly silly and completely interactive. Having a health-draining adversary batter you until you yell, “Got the Life?” is a nice change of pace. Unforgivable.
LIL NAS X (ROBLOX)
When you consider that Roblox has an astounding 33 million daily users, it was only a matter of time before the kid’s creation platform began to host some legitimate megastars of the gaming world. Who is the most well-known of them all? Lil Nas X is a rapper from the United States of America.
Lil Nas X and Roblox went all out for the viral rapper’s first-ever video game performance, and the results were spectacular. The performance featured a massive motion-captured Lil Nas X towering above throngs of his adoring fans, as well as an intricately rendered fantasy world that was warped to match the themes of each song he performed on stage. Considering that the average age of a Roblox player is about 10, it shouldn’t be surprising that there wasn’t a sweaty, latex-filled recreation of the sex-laden anthem “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).”
His gaming debut was a huge success, even though it was significantly less intense and markedly more kid-friendly than the Lil Nas X we’re used to seeing on the big screen. Because his Saturday performance was such a success, much to the delight of his younger fans, the hip-hop sensation performed the same set as an encore on Sunday as well, allowing fans to relive one of the best in-game concerts if they missed it the first time.
In part because of its brilliant animations, entertaining setlist, and visually interesting visual variety, Lil Nas X’s Roblox residency was a complete and utter blast. Keep this in mind for future artists: this is how it’s done.