Editing ‘Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play’ by Michael Austin

Michael Austin gives us a little insight into his new anthology of essays on video game music,

Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play.

 

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Thanks to the hard work of a handful of dedicated ludomusicologists (from a variety of academic fields), I’m very happy to announce that Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play was released last month by Bloomsbury Academic Press!

The book is the first anthology dedicated solely to the genre of music video games, stretching well beyond Guitar Hero and Rockband to include handhelds (such as SIMON from the late 1970s), to mobile music games, to music making and the representation of musicians in games in which performing music or rhythm matching isn’t necessarily the main objective. Other chapters investigate themes of composing with video games, authenticity and “selling out,” and pedagogical uses for music games.

The book is part of Bloomsbury’s Approaches to Digital Games series (Gerald Voorhees and Josh Call, series editors).  It was released on July 28, along with Gareth Schott’s Violent Games: Rules, Realism, and Effect – a monograph that investigates the mediation of violence in video games and gameplay.

In addition to excellent chapters by an international collection of scholars, Music Video Games also includes a “Glossary of Gaming and Musical Terms”  – for the benefit of non-specialists in either field.

 

Many thanks to scholars who contributed chapters to the project. Their chapters are listed below.

You can get your own copy of the book here. You can get 30% off of the price of your copy when you use the code “game studies” at checkout.

For more information about Bloomsbury’s Approaches to Digital Games Studies series (including current and pending volumes), or to propose a volume of your own, visit the series website here.

 

 

Introduction – Taking Note of Music Games (Michael Austin, Howard University, USA)

Part One: Preludes & Overtures
Chapter 1 – SIMON: The Prelude to Modern Music Video Games (William M. Knoblauch, Finlandia University, USA)

Chapter 2 – Mario Paint Composer and Musical (Re)Play on YouTube (Dana M. Plank, Case Western Reserve University, USA)

Chapter 3 – Active Interfaces and Thematic Events in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time (1998) (Stephanie Lind, Queen’s University, Canada)

Chapter 4 – Sample, Cycle, Sync: The Music Sequencer and its Influence on Music Video Games (Michael Austin, Howard University, USA)

 

Part Two: Virtuosi, Virtues, & the Virtual
Chapter 5 – Consumerism Hero: The “Selling Out” of Guitar Hero and Rock Band  (Mario A. Dozal, University of New Mexico, USA)

Chapter 6 – Beat It! Playing the “King of Pop” in Video Games (Melanie Fritsch, University of Bayreuth, Germany)

Chapter 7 – Virtual Jam: A Critical Analysis of Virtual Music Game Environments (David Arditi, University of Texas at Arlington, USA)

 

Part Three: Concerts, Collaboration, & Creativity
Chapter 8 – Guitar Heroes in the Classroom: The Creative Potential of Music-Games

(David Roesner, University of Kent, UK, Anna Paisley, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK, and Gianna Cassidy, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK)

Chapter 9 – Rocksmith and the Shaping of Player Experience (Daniel O’Meara, Princeton University, USA

Chapter 10 – Rhythm Sense: Modality and Enactive Perception in Rhythm Heaven  (Peter Shultz, University of Chicago, USA)

Chapter 11 – Pitching the Rhythm: Music Games for iPad (Nathan Fleshner, Stephen F. Austin State University, USA)

 

Afterword – Toadofsky’s Music Lessons (William Cheng, Dartmouth College, USA)

 

Glossary of Gaming and Musical Terms
About the Contributors
Author Index

Game Index

General Index

 

 

Just Published! Ludomusicology: Approaches to Video Game Music, Edited by Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers and Mark Sweeney

We are thrilled to announce that our volume, Ludomusicology Approaches to Video Game Music has just published! Supplementary materials to the book will be published on our website soon, so look forward to a further announcement about that in the coming weeks.

The last half-decade has seen the rapid and expansive development of video game music studies. As with any new area of study, this significant sub-discipline is still tackling fundamental questions concerning how video game music should be approached. In this volume, experts in game music provide their responses to these issues.

This book suggests a variety of new approaches to the study of game music. In the course of developing ways of conceptualizing and analyzing game music it explicitly considers other critical issues including the distinction between game play and music play, how notions of diegesis are complicated by video game interactivity, the importance of cinema aesthetics in game music, the technicalities of game music production and the relationships between game music and art music traditions.

This collection is accessible, yet theoretically substantial and complex. It draws upon a diverse array of perspectives and presents new research which will have a significant impact upon the way that game music is studied. The volume represents a major development in game musicology and will be indispensable for both academic researchers and students of game music.

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, Mark Sweeney
  2. Analyzing Video Game Music: Sources, Methods and a Case Study
    Tim Summers
  3. Analyzing Game Musical Immersion: The ALI Model
    Isabella van Elferen, Kingston University, London
  4. Modularity in Video Game Music
    Elizabeth Medina-Gray, Independent Scholar
  5. Suture and Peritexts: Music Beyond Gameplay and Diegesis
    Michiel Kamp
  6. “It’s a-me, Mario!” – Playing With Video Game Music
    Melanie Fritsch, Independent Scholar
  7. Game and Play in Music Video Games
    Anahid Kassabian, Independent Scholar, and Freya Jarman, University of Liverpool
  8. ‘Listening’ Through Digital Interaction in Björk’s Biophilia
    Samantha Blickhan, PhD Candidate
  9. Palimpsest, Pragmatism and the Aesthetics of Genre Transformation: Composing the Hybrid Score to Electronic Arts’s Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed
    Stephen Baysted, University of Chichester
  10. Isaac’s Silence Purposive Aesthetics in Dead Space
    Mark Sweeney, University of Oxford
  11. Remixed Metaphors: Manipulating Classical Music and Its Meanings in Video Games
    William Gibbons, Texas Christian University

Thank you to all of our fantastic chapter authors for your hard work in bringing this volume together.

Technical Details

hb ISBN 9781781791974
£60 / $100
pb ISBN 9781781791981
£19.99 / $29.95
Pub date: July 2016
Extent: 240pp 15 Figures
Format: 234 x 156mm (9.21 x 6.14 inches)
Readership: scholars and students
Subjects: Popular Music
Series: Genre, Music and Sound

Receive 25% off quoting the code Ludo when ordering from the Equinox book page. To find out more about the book and to order visit:

https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/ludomusicology/

 

How to Find Work Online as a New VG Composer

Contributor: Chris Lines (http://www.gamecomposeradvantage.com/) shares his advice on becoming a successful video game composer. This is a short version of a longer series of articles from Chris’s site to help game composers. You can check out the longer in-depth versions here.

Many composers have either studied music formally for a long time or are self-taught to a pretty good level, and yet they haven’t actually worked on any video games at all, let alone been paid for one.

FGI was in a similar position until a few years ago… I’d always written music since I was fifteen, been in bands, had my own studio set up for years. But apart from a small amount of production music, and the odd student film, I had never really achieved that much. I decided something had to change…

I noticed that there were plenty of game composer websites talking about VSTs and DAWs but none on the actual hard work of freelancing. So I invested thousands of pounds in the best freelancing courses and books I could, and learned about positioning, pitching, selling and running a freelance business in general. What I learned wasn’t specifically tailored for musicians – most of my fellow students in fact were designers, photographers, web developers or other freelancers, but I found universal lessons that could be applied to music too.

What Most Composer Do Wrong

It’s all too common to see posts on game developer forums where composers are offering their services – and often for free. I have never done this. If a composer does get an answer, they’ll generally be asked to write for free, or for ‘exposure’. More likely than not they just won’t get a reply. When they don’t get inundated with offers to write music they then get disappointed.  “Why on earth not?”, I hear them cry, “I’m offering to write for free! What could be better than that, right?”

Most composers don’t see things from a developer’s perspective though. Try it for a moment – why would they trust this person who posted on a forum offering to work for free? Is this the way a professional composer would act?

There Is Another Way

What I quickly learned from my studies is that rather than posting adverts on forums and waiting for the phone to call, I came to appreciate the power of the hustle. By spending time upfront researching the most suitable developers, picking the games I really wanted to work on, and only then contacting the developers directly, things seemed a lot more hopeful.

Now I rather glossed over the part where I mentioned research – but this is essential and is where most of the effort should go. There’s no point pitching just anyone who is making a game. You need to choose carefully – take your time. The best places to look are game developer forums where devs are posting about what they are working on, but there are also sites like Kickstarter. Here’s a link to Quora with some suggestions of game developer sites.

And once you have found a game you like the look of you need to find the developer’s email address. Sure you could contact them via the forum, but I think email is best. You might have to do some digging and Googling to get an e-mail address, but again it’s worth it. Once you have an e-mail address you can then quite honestly tell them who you are, what you do and genuinely offer to help. It’s not magic – just maybe a bit braver than the average composer, and that’s the point. You don’t want to be the same as everyone else.

Get Used to Hustling

It has to be said, 9 times out of 10 a cold pitch doesn’t work. Game devs either already have a composer or they have settled on an alternative approach to the music. Or they just weren’t a good fit in the first place and just don’t reply. Don’t worry! Keep trying and occasionally… just occasionally… it does work.

Now it has to be said that cold pitching (even with the right research) is a numbers game. You’ll send out dozens and dozens of e-mails before you get any interest. And even when you do, you might only get a ‘maybe’. It’s then your job to keep in touch, keep pitching, making contacts and eventually something good will happen.

The point of this article is to show one method of finding work online. There are others, and I
should make the point that real life meet-ups, conferences and networking are just as important – they just aren’t the focus of this article.

What If You Aren’t Ready?

I’ve found a lot of composers are put off getting themselves out into the market because they feel they aren’t ready. This could be for a variety of reasons:

  • they don’t have a good enough website or portfolio,
  • they don’t know enough about games in general or interactive music
  • plus many other reasons.

You should at the very least have some kind of portfolio showing off your music, even if this is just a SoundCloud page. Otherwise how on earth will a developer hear what you can do? More than that is obviously nice, such as a smart, clean website with a dedicated portfolio section and maybe a blog, but it’s not needed in the beginning.

As for having expert knowledge of interactive music and middleware? In reality for your first few gigs as a game composer you aren’t going to need to know much of this stuff, if anything. Don’t wait till you are ready… take action now and learn as you go.

The Soundtrack 8:1-2 Update – Michael Austin’s Paper Nominated for Annual Game Music Award

The Soundtrack 8:1-2 Update (15 June 2016)
agmasWe’re pleased to report here that Michael Austin’s paper, “From Mixtapes to Multiplayers…” was nominated for the recent Outstanding Achievement — Publication, Broadcast, or Documentary category of VGMO’s Annual Game Music Awards. It is really exciting to see academic research being disseminated into and having an impact on the wider gaming community. Congratulations Michael on your excellent article!

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