A re video games entertainment or art?
Blair Baker has been pondering that question since her high school days in Alameda, when she and her brother would spend hours sitting on the kitchen floor playing “The Legend of Dragoon” and “Gauntlet Legends” on a friend’s PlayStation.
“Most Americans view video games and anime as stuff for kids,” said Baker, who graduated from Cal Poly in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. “It might be accepted as something fun to do. But if you were to tell most people, ‘Oh my God, you have to play this game. It’s like best picture of the year,’ you’d get funny looks.”
Baker and fellow Cal Poly grad Christopher Pasillas celebrate the artistic side of video games and Japanese-style animation in “Hideo,” a musical production that pairs an epic
story with selections from “Full Metal Alchemist,” “Mega Man” and the “Final Fantasy” franchise. The show, which is sponsored by the Cal Poly Music Department, comes to San Luis Obispo on Nov. 5.
“We wanted to present this really great music as something that everybody can relate to,” explained Baker, the show’s creator and artistic director.
Baker got the inspiration for “Hideo” after attending a lackluster “Final Fantasy” concert.
“You could tell that the musicians were going, ‘This is just a job. We don’t really care about it.’ It was really boring,” recalled Baker, a college student at the time. “I went home and went, ‘I can do so much better.’ ”
She and the rest of the production team—which includes music director Pasillas, actor-writer Schyler Baker, sound designer Stephen Escobedo and lighting designer Z. William Bakal — started work on “Hideo” in late 2009.
The show premiered in October 2010 at UC Berkeley. (A 30-minute version, “Overture: Hideo,” won rave reviews last May at FanimeCon, a Japanese culture and anime convention in San Jose.)
Set in a world ripped apart by decades of war, “Hideo” takes its name from its central character (Cal Poly theater major Ryan Austin), a reckless young man whose best friend is murdered. He vows to bring those responsible to justice.
Over the course of his quest, Hideo encounters mysterious mercenary Satoshi (Pedro Velasco), courageous healer Reina (Mary Stocker) and friendly bartender Rebecca (Hannah Ward).
Baker said she was inspired by the popular anime series “Cowboy Bebop,” about a group of interstellar bounty hunters who eventually become friends.
“There’s always a little message of hope, no matter what happens,” she said.
To illustrate its story, “Hideo” uses six actors, five vocalists and 23 instrumentalists, as well as large-scale illustrations projected above the stage. (Dan Howard and Chad Bonaker created the animated art.)
Pasillas watched hundreds of music videos on YouTube to find the right song for every scene. The repertoire, conducted by Cal Poly music major Lauren Wasynczuk, ranges from jazz and rock to operatic arias and energy-charged battle themes.
“There’s a big mix,” said Pasillas, a software engineer who studied music at Cal Poly.
Baker and Pasillas, who now live in the Bay Area, said they’re eager to present “Hideo” at their alma mater. They’d eventually like to bring the production to other college campuses as well.
“It’s about looking at a university and going, ‘We’re a company that’s offering a really cool, unique opportunity for schools, something the department doesn’t offer,” Baker said, noting that 18 Cal Poly students are involved in the Nov. 5 production. (Alumni and professionals comprise the rest of the cast and crew.)
“I’m looking to see how the audience reacts,” she added.