Making a Note Here: The Inaugural North American Conference on Video Game Music was a HUGE SUCCESS
By Steven Reale, Assistant Professor of Music, Dana School of Music, Youngstown State University
On January 18, 2014, about 50 people, including academics, college and high school students, and interested locals, arrived at the McDonough Museum of Art on the campus of Youngstown State University for the first North American Conference on Video Game Music, a two-day event featuring presentations by 18 musicologists, music theorists, and music educators on a wide variety of aspects of music in video games, including compositional approaches, analyses, studies of game narratives and genres, and applications of game music for pedagogy (program). Karen Collins, noted author of Game Sound, Playing with Sound, and From Pac-Man to Pop Music, gave the keynote address, “Game Sound Studies: 10 Years On,” wherein she spoke at length about the challenges facing our young subdiscipline, aspects of game music that are yet to receive scholarly attention (such as casino slot machines and musical toys for infants), and sparked a vigorous conversation about the term “ ludomusicology,” asking whether we as a burgeoning community of scholars do ourselves a disservice by placing a hifalutin linguistic boundary between ourselves and those from outside academia (including industry composers) who might be interested in joining the conversation.
Indeed, as the lead organizer for the event, one of its most rewarding aspects for me was the enormous excitement and interest in our work—on the one hand, by the large number of conference participants from outside of academia, and, on the other hand, media outlets including local newspaper and television coverage, an Associated Press piece that, at last count, popped up in well over 100 national and international news outlets, a story on the event that appeared on wired.com, and radio interviews that were broadcast on BBC5 and National Public Radio. This is encouraging; it suggests that in an era of widespread public resentment toward higher education, the work that we are doing is facilitating conversations and creating possibilities for engagement both inside and outside the academy.
Therefore, I must acknowledge the groundbreaking work performed by the UK Ludomusicology Research Group, who demonstrated that this field really is ready for prime-time, and the guidance that Tim Summers, Mark Sweeney, and Michiel Kamp offered when I asked for their advice in how exactly to go about putting on an event of this nature. I also want to offer my sincere thanks to Neil Lerner and Will Gibbons for their work on the program committee and for rendering me support with the snags that crop up any time you try to organize a project of this nature, as well as to my wife, Haley Reale, and my student, Cory Davis, for their tireless assistance during the event to help make sure everything ran smoothly.
Now, for some photos: