The Sound of Gaming

An Argument for Studying Music in Relation to Gaming Rather Than Film

Get ready for some heavy listening.

Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Bunny Hop
In the clip above Julie Andrews character is teaching the children using a system called solfège. The notes are sung aloud at the proper tune using a solfège syllable, do, re, mi, etc...

Unfortunately, game design doesn't seem to have any direct analogue to solfège, though any individual genre within games could probably create something close. Fighting games especially, fore, back, left, right, punch, kick, block, jump. Indeed, if you open up the dojo in Virtua Fighter 5 you may see that very notation attempting to teach you the various combos.

At it's core, solfège exists to give voice to the fundamental basics of musical graphing and notation.

A concept not wholly unfamiliar to game designers.

Bare Metal Mechanics (Ludology)
Any time we attempt to discuss games in relation to films or novels we are immediately caught in discussing the narrative(narratological?) issues of games. While not necessarily a heinous act, it creates a problem quite similar to discussing music purely in terms of lyrics.

For instance, if you watch the first couple minutes, of the next two videos, then the third for at least the first four minutes or so, you'll notice something about the relationship of lyrics to music.

The narrative of a game has, I believe, almost exactly the same relation to games. In music, the tune of a song can be expressed through the voice as an instrument, or the lyrics can simply be a layer applied over top of whatever music is playing. Similarly the narrative of a game can be built with interesting choices, becoming itself part of the game, or can be layered over the existing game play as something completely separate.

I'm not saying that lyrics are bad, it's just that as lyrics are not in and of themselves music, narrative is not in and of itself a game.

What's more music is, at it's core, an abstract set of rules applied to sound to create something our mind recognizes as more than simple sound. A game is much the same, an abstract set of rules applied to a space such that our mind recognizes it as more than simply a space. What's most important, I think, is the abstraction. To use a somewhat famous example, a film can show you a peach in detail, a book can describe it in detail, but a piece of musical notes cannot go into detail about the peach. In order to express a peach in musical notation, you must call upon the emotional underpinnings, on connections in our ontological basis. So it is with games, the rules of a game cannot describe a peach in detail, so it must attach itself to the mechanical and emotional associations of how we interact with a peach.

1 comment:

  1. This is an awesome posting. I am struggling for words, this is really impressive. With lots of implications on game design and how we enjoy our games when playing them.