Thursday, November 10, 2016

Video game music in election games

Since I first started teaching my video game music class in 2013, Tuesday became the first time I was teaching on a major election day in the USA.  So, for a portion of the class activities on Tuesday, we looked at some uses of game audio in election related games.

One fact I was fascinated to learn is that, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the first piece of video game music used in an election campaign was in 2008.  "Casualties of War" from Medal of Honor European Assault was used without permission of the composer Christopher Lennertz in a TV campaign for John McCain.  

I also looked for various examples of gameplay footage from games that address elections to get a sense of what style of music the games use.  Many election games, especially earlier ones, use only a few sound effects and were rather unremarkable in terms of audio.  But one favorites I discovered with fully fledged music from more recent times  Battleground States 2008.  I couldn't find much more about who created the sound for this game and would love to learn if you know-- leave me a comment.  

You'll hear that this has a very dramatic feel with lots of percussion instruments that has a distinct feel of an evening news program.  My students mused that the gameplay and audio also have a bit of a civil war/ war game component as well.  

One of the most contemporary election related games I could find was Combover Monster Campaign Manager.  In this game, I can easily understand the relevance of the soundbites that are used.  But both my class and I found it challenging to understand why the music fit well with the game.  Having played the game a bit (follow the link above), my first instinct is that the music is just to make the gameplay a bit more immersive and that the spoken word portion is really the hero of the audio.  This feeling is definitely confirmed when you win the game and the ending of the game is a short Trump speech.  Really unique use of the audio.  Interestingly, the audio wasn't made with complex tools, either-- just Audacity and GarageBand.  Again, I'd be interested to learn more about who made this game and the audio.  

Do you know of any other games about elections?  What sort of music/audio do they have?  Do you think it works well for the game?  Why?  Leave me a comment below!  I'm eager to learn more about this topic and want to expand my knowledge for 2020.  

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