Monday, February 4, 2013

Analysis: Reaction to G4 top 100 Games of All Time whose audio was highlighted in the special

Of course, watching the G4 Top 100 Video Games got me thinking about game audio differently-- so what did I learn?  First of all, questions: How does one decide what game audio should be known?  What parameters make game music "worthy" or "important?"  Historical studies often point to the first occurrence of something as being very important, but weight also must be give to those whose widespread popularity has great effect.

I had trouble deciding what audio had been "highlighted" in the course of the G4 series.  For this project, I defined it as an extended spoken sequence about game audio.  However, sound effects and game music were on display in other ways.  For instance, the intro of the Ms. Pac-Man video.  To me, this is still highlighting the audio, but in an unspoken way.  If I included examples like this, there would have been many more games listed because audio effects and music often played both in the background and as the main focus.  Also I skipped a couple of games with a passing mention of "great soundtrack."  My requirement was spoken time in the series being devoted to a discussion of the audio.

I began to wonder about the methodology of game music study.  Watching game play videos is not exactly the same as playing the game because there's no interactivity... and yet there are games that are too difficult for me to complete (Punch Out, for instance).  Is a fair compromise playing some of the game and then watching the rest?

I need to survey the internet for game music information-- most game audio everything is online.  This is a massive project.  Interviews, some analysis, and lots of game audio information exists on the internet, but it's not corralled into a centralized hub.  Wikipedia, YouTube, and some gaming sites have information on various game music, composers, and links to more information.  How do gamers who get interested in game music search for more information about it?  Hypothesis: most  people get interested in the music of a certain game and then seek out more information on that game's music, rather than a systematic study of music across games and genres.

Consider the source!  The G4 special had a few game designers and musicians who comment about the audio, but most of the time the audio quotes were from celebrities.  These sort of statements are great for just making you think about your gut reaction to hearing the game music, not necessarily a studied, thoughtful reaction.  Remember: Game music is popular music-- main stream folks love it, listen to it, encounter it, sing it.  It's part of American culture and heritage.  Almost anyone can sing some memorable bit of it.

I found myself often pulled back to my childhood.  How does nostalgia play into this music and its listeners?

This project gave me a way to encounter popular game music that I didn't know.  I've been wondering how to expand my knowledge base of game music and also make sure I wasn't just going to obscure games for an audio detail.  That's something I hope to do, but first I've been wanting to check the pulse of mainstream "greatest hits" video game music.  Where are games tonally, rhythmically, stylistically?

Are there any similarities between classical music and game music?  Do their developments share similarities in any way?  Immediately coming to mind is a comparison of early music's polyphony and the use of the distinct sound channels in early game music.  And what of popular music and game music? 

This project also helped me validate the game music experience of my childhood as a worthwhile one.  I knew several of these games and plenty of others.  As a child, I owned Super Mario piano sheet music (simplified and inaccurate).  I grew up just at the demise of the arcade and the rise of the home entertainment system and loved video games, playing them for hours at a time.  After this project, I'm considering recreating a similar journey (links to gameplay/soundtracks) through game music as I experienced it growing up.  Maybe these wouldn't be considered the "most important games ever," but they fostered enough interest in me for this....

Oh, and if you're curious about a relation between marketing and video game music?  As soon as I watched the series, I bought Red Dead Redemption and have already played it for over 30 hours...