From Virgin to Intellivision: A Look Back at Tommy Tallarico

When I was much younger, my family had a cable package that included Tech TV. A lot of the content on the network went over my head at the time, but I loved X-Play and Anime Unleashed, which were both exactly in my wheelhouse. A real video game show and cool anime like Gungrave? Hell yeah. Eventually G4 and Tech TV merged, and the G4 side took over more and more. While it was a shame to see the distinct weirdness of Tech TV dissolve, I did enjoy all the extra gaming content. One show that stood out what Electric Playground, which was like X-Play but a bit more accessible and straightforward.

Part of the appeal of “EP” was the loud man who seemed to hate Nintendo and care way too much about footstep noises. That man was Tommy Tallarico, and young Nintendo fanboy me loved to hate-watch his reviews. Years later, I learned much more about Tallarico and came to realize how important to the world of video games (especially game music) he is. Now, he’s the President of Intellivision, which is a whole new level of weird.

For the longest time, I only knew Tommy Tallarico as the co-host of Electric Playground, alongside the more personable Victor Lucas. While at first I was annoyed by Tommy’s antics (again, Nintendo fanboy), I came to appreciate the show’s light-hearted, good cop/bad cop vibe while I turned to X-Play for more serious reviews. G4 would eventually leave TV and become… whatever it is now, and with that network went my awareness of Tallarico. That is, until I attended a panel he hosted at the MAGfest (Music And Gaming) festival, and learned more about exactly who he is. To make a long story short, my mind was blown. This dude who was the bad cop of Electric Playground was a music composer, and a pretty big deal one to boot.

Tallarico started at Virgin Interactive, working on games such as Prince of PersiaCool Spot, and Aladdin. The Aladdin soundtrack in particular was a huge feat in early video game music composition, as the Sega Genesis had notoriously limited audio tech. Stuffing arrangements of a blockbuster Disney production into that thing is a feat of strength few game composers can attribute themselves to. Inevitably, Tallarico formed his own music studio, which went on to work on all-time classics such as Earthworm Jim and Metroid Prime. There were some stinkers too, such as Sonic and the Black Knight and the infamously bomb Advent Rising. Neither of those games are going down in history as greats, but the Advent Rising score, which was fully orchestrated, won awards from several publications.

That panel I attended was about Tallarico’s career overall, but it had a particular focus on Video Games Live. This was Tallarico’s most ambitious move, up until the Intellivision stuff we’ll get into later. This show, which has run through the 2000s and as recently as 2018, was one of the earliest examples of a traveling concert featuring video game music – a concept that is internationally commonplace today. It involves laser lights, audience participation, celebrity appearances and Tallarcio himself shredding to the Castlevania soundtrack. At least, that’s what happened when I attended a show a number of years ago. It was pretty cool, y’all.

In more recent news, things have been weird in retro gaming, to say the least. Miniature versions of classics consoles are a big deal now, and Atari has a brand new console coming out (maybe). On top of all that, Tallarico announced he is now the president of Intellivision, and the company is set to release a new gaming device of its own, the Amico. The Amico is aimed to be a family device, with a low price point for both the platform and software. All games have been stated to be exclusive as well, which happens to include a new Earthworm Jim, complete with music from Tallarico. Everything is coming full circle.

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The Intellivision Amico is a huge question mark. The new Atari console seems to be more cut and dry, despite some of the weirdness surrounding it, but the Amico seems powered by new ideas and ways of thinking about video games in 2019. Which is an odd thing to say, paired with the announcement of a new Earthworm Jim.

Regardless of what happens, there’s no denying the drive and passion of the company’s new president, Tommy Tallarico. One only needs to look at this long list of accomplishments and contributions to the industry over the years, but in and outside of the actual development part. From cramming the Aladdin soundtrack into a Genesis cart to running massive game music concerts, there’s plenty of precedent to presume the Intellivision brand is in capable hands.

Lucas White
Lucas White

Writing Team Lead
Date: 05/10/2019

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