Saturday, February 9, 2013

Surveying Literature: Kiri Miller's Jackin the Dial: Radio, Race, and Place in Grand Theft Auto

In between some auditions yesterday, I read Kiri Miller's article Jackin the Dial: Radio, Race, and Place in Grand Theft Auto.  Interesting article about a game that I've not played at all.  However, I'm currently playing Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption, so I can relate to the style of game audio, even though GTA is a different game from RDR.  Here are my reactions to reading:

Although it's a long article with a variety of points, I'd say that Miller's most interesting thesis deals with the effect that choosing your own radio station music has on the player: how the player identifies with the avatar, how the player is immersed in the game, and the process by which players branched out to various stations.  She's also compiled fascinating gamer reactions that provide flow for the article as she comments on them.  SimCity 3000 was the first game I remember playing where I was excited about choosing the music, and while I listened to a variety of music depending on my mood, my favorite was the jazz Updown Town.   So, while I've not played GTA, by mashing together Red Dead Redemption, audio choice, and watching game play videos and audio, I can imagine the experience.

Reading from an ethnomusicologist's perspective really got me thinking: I hadn't really considered how different players experiences can be around the globe.  In other words, how would my gaming experience differ from a sixty year old woman playing in Europe?  As games are released in different markets, they do go through some localization, although I don't know of cases where this affects the music-- generally thought of as a "universal language."  I should look for more information about localization of game music and continue to consider how other people and cultures might experience game music in similar and different ways than I do.






Miller mentions that she's surveyed GTA players through blogs, fark.com, and a GTA Fansite.  She mentions that blogs got good responses.  This again reinforced for me that a blog is the best way to interact with others about this kind of material.

While traveling to see some opera in Europe this summer, I read Brandwashed where Martin Lindstrom discusses a bit about music, marketing, and nostalgia in Chapter 6.  Interesting here to also read about how the 80s soundtrack from Vice City connected with listeners who had lived through the 80s, as well as with a younger generation who heard the music because their parents were listening to it.

Lastly, this article was a reminder for me about how to write about game music.  Not having played GTA, I had trouble following along with the in article references numerous.  How does one find the balance between being specific enough to be interesting to those with specialized knowledge, yet broad enough to create interest to draw readers in?  I found this article just trying to learn more about game music.  I'm guessing that most of the people who would read an article about audio in Grand Theft Auto would have had an interest in the game and probably have seen it or played it, unlike me.  (This fits well with my previous hypothesis that most gamers seek out game music information about games individually that they've played or are playing-- they become interested in a game and then want to learn more about its music.)  For my own part, I'm trying to survey very broadly-- as much as possible about game music in different eras, genres, systems, etc.  Thus, reading this reminded me that I need be able to explain characters, situations, and in-play activities in general terms so that people who haven't played the game are able to follow the discussion.