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The Arsht Center Sees A Future In Video Games

Courtesy of Square Enix

A very different crowd will be filing into the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall this weekend.  Instead of the usual group, predominately made up of women between 55 and 65 years old, swarms of 18- to 25-year-old boys will be packing the seats.

But they aren’t coming for Mozart or Beethoven. They’re coming to hear the music of a popular, 25-year-old video-game series, called Final Fantasy, performed by an orchestra.

The show, “Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy” has technically already sold out. But don’t lose hope if you want to go: Some more tickets are coming available.

Eighty percent of the ticket purchases have been made by first-time ticket buyers. That’s a real slam dunk for a legacy-arts institution like the Arsht Center, which is always working to cultivate the next generation of arts patrons.

The Arsht's executive vice president Scott Shiller, himself a lifelong gamer, isn't surprised by those numbers. They’re actually pretty similar to what the Arsht pulled in for a concert of music from the Zelda video-game series, performed last year.

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“There is clearly a want and a need for this type of programming,” Shiller said. But he said the numbers from the Final Fantasy concert revealed something new. An “ah-ha” moment, he called it.

There wasn’t nearly as much overlap between ticket buyers for the two concerts as the Arsht Center expected.

“What we’ve found is that the people coming to Final Fantasy are different fans than the people coming to Zelda,” Shiller said. “We’re reaching a different audience with a different artistic program.”

Shiller said video games are approximately a $67 billion industry, so there’s no doubt they’ve become integrated into our culture. What the Arsht is learning, he said, is that video-game aficionados, although they may skew Millennial and male, can’t be treated as a homogenous group.  

“Just like an opera fan, you may like one opera but not another, or you may like opera but you may not like Broadway,” Shiller said. “So, what we’re finding is that individual shows are driving attendance within this framework of this new performing arts genre.”

“Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy” takes place Saturday Nov. 23 at the Adrienne Arsht Center's Knight Concert Hall. The music spans 25 years of the Final Fantasy franchise and includes videos and images from the game series, which will be projected over the musicians as they play.