A Story About An Audio File Goes Off The Rails

I had seen this video floating around for a little while. YouTube dropped it into my recommendations and I skimmed right over it; why would I give a shit about the origin of a death sound used in Roblox?

The answer to that turned out to be a very strange one, and the video took me on quite an interesting — and often cringe-inducing — journey down memory lane.

The genesis of the video was an attempt at a short video essay about the sound players make in Roblox when they die. The “oof” sound was apparently a meme for years, and a cursory search on YouTube will back this up — with videos of the sound boasting millions of plays for this sub-1-second sound. The sound was recently changed in the game, and there was a backstory to the decision. Hence the video essay.

What could have simply been a standard copyright dispute ended up providing a window into the world of someone I had not thought about in nearly 20 years. The reason the sound was being changed was because the owner of the sound file and Roblox were unable to come to an agreement for compensation. The owner of the sound, Tommy Tallarico.

Depending on your age, that name may or may not mean anything to you. As someone born in 1983, Tallarico was a pretty big deal in my late teenage years and beyond. Tallarico hosted Electric Playground, a news and review show covering the world of gaming. Tallarico was also a prominent sound-designer, running his own company and producing sound design and original music for numerous video game titles.

The guy was always a bit of a clown, but the show was genuinely enjoyable at the time. I stopped being much of a TV-watcher in 2005 and had lost claim to being much of a gamer as well — the result of a demanding college and work schedule. I never knew what happened to Electric Playground, and never thought much of it in the intervening years.

Never, not in a million lifetimes, did I expect such an innocuous, unsolicited YouTube video to completely change my perception of a random media figure from my past, let alone like this.

I won’t spoil much of the video (it’s very well done), but the story of Roblox sound quickly leads to Tommy as the owner of the sound. It was apparently created for a game called Messiah (released in 2000), and was later re-used by Roblox — the latter’s developer claiming they found the file on a CD of stock sounds they purchased. After Tallarico became aware of the sound’s use, and the staggering popularity of the game using his work, things get progressively weirder.

Even at the conclusion of the 2-hour video, it’s not entirely clear of Tallarico made the sound. His company licensed the sound to Shiny Entertainment, who produced Messiah, but retained ownership of the recording. However, there is compelling evidence to believe that Tallarico’s sound designer, Joey Kuras, actually did the work. Tallarico’s candor, or lackthereof, in discussing the whole issue is extremely weird. Weird enough to begin questioning other statements and actions of his from the past, which then prompt even further inquiry as seemingly every aspect of Tommy’s life falls apart under the slightest bit of scrutiny.

Anyway, it’s a really thorough video and well worth the time to watch it. By the end, I was shocked and second-hand embarrassed for a guy I held in pretty high regard during my youth. Saying I idolized Tommy Tallarico would be drastically overstating things, but from my perspective he was living The Life: his two jobs were making video games and reporting on video games, and he seemed to be making bank doing so.

By the time the video was done, I wasn’t even sure his name was actually Tommy.

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