|10:00–11:30||Session 7 – Transmediality|Chair: James Ellis
Transmedia narratives, defined as “a story that expands across many media and communication platforms” (Scolari, 2013), have become the standard way of understanding audiovisual creations, especially since the rise of collaborative platforms, such as YouTube. For this presentation, I consider these narratives in an extended way, examining how the aesthetics of a specific format can be applied to another and then creating a new autonomous product.
Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding (2019) creates a turning point in transmedia narratives by imbuing the video game with music video aesthetics. Kojima uses preexisting music in key locations of the game, where the action halts. There are no surrounding dangers at that time, and the player interacts with music, camera movements and landscape, becoming the protagonist and architect of what I call a “dynamic music video”–following Collins’ definition of “dynamic music” (2008, 139).
After experiencing the game, prosumers not only searched the preexistent music video in YouTube –which boosted its views since the premiere of the game–, but also shared their playthrough videos, each of them resulting in a different, personal music video of the same song.
This study will analyze the musical transmedia narratives created from Death Stranding, both regarding the gameplay experience and the user-generated content, attending to their bidirectional motion: the one that converts the players’ experience in a music video inserted in a videogame, and the one that converts the video game in an autonomous music video.
League of Legends (LOL) is a video game that has an incredibly large universe, with more than 150 characters with different backstories, abilities, and powers, that create a magical universe through the relationships between characters and their own mythology. The game was developed by Riot Games in 2009 and it belongs to the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre. The transmedia storytelling expansion across different platforms is one of its most relevant characteristics of this game, especially regarding to music videos. Besides, music is currently presented as an element to unify gamers across the word (FebrellColl, 2020). In this sense, popular music and music videos are relevant concepts to improve the promotion of the cultural product (Jeffery, 2017). Thus, the main aim of this paper is to know how LOL expands its narrative across the official music videos launched by LOL in YouTube. To that end, firstly we will describe the formal characteristics of the music videos, and secondly, we will apply to them the methodology of the seven principles of transmedia storytelling proposed by Jenkins (2010). In general terms, not only is it observed how the magical realm and the incredible backstories of the game are expanded through music videos, but also how famous bands like Imagine Dragons, Against The Current or 2WEI are contributing to the expansion of this universe.
Since its release in 2009, League of Legends has steadily grown its presence and fanbase around the globe. Over the years, the popularity of the video game has afforded the creation of its own subculture, which was further potentiated when making the leap into esports. Since then, the game has progressively expanded its area of influence towards music and, more recently, television.
In November 2021, Neflix launched Arcane, a TV series based on Riot Game’s popular video game. The nine episodes of the show portray the conflict between the citizens of Piltover, a progressist metropolis with revolutionary technologies, and the marginalized inhabitants from the underground city of Zaun. The main characters of the show, as well as the city names and depicted objects, respond to a preexistent narrative of the game, without this excluding unfamiliar viewers.
There are several strategies selected by League of Legends’ developers to appeal to a wider audience, beyond regular users. Riot Music, the group in charge of music and sound design at Riot Games, selected several pop bands and artists to create the show’s original soundtrack, bringing its fantastic world closer to spectators through recognizable sound. As DeNora (2000) underlines, music works as an artefact of memory and its constitution, bringing familiarity to the listener when associated with past experience. The most representative case in this approach between opposites was the billboard success Enemy, by Imagine Dragons.
In this paper, I explore the intersection between Arcane’s universe and the music industry to which Riot Games has contributed for the past decade. Furthermore, I highlight the reception of the series among and beyond its gamer audience, in relation to the show’s music proposal, and the socialization processes that it has afforded for global viewers.
|12:00–13:30||Session 8 – Cultural Representation|Chair: Milly Gunn
Rather than older, overly simplified, colonial (Mukherjee 2017) and harmful representations of indigenous cultures in cultural texts, more recent productions tend to depict these cultures in more affirmative light, focusing on a somehow deeper understanding of them. Those productions often rely on visual and textual references, like clothing, choreography, or language, but despite the consultations, traditional music is missing, and the religions they present are uniformised and superficial (Kalvig 2020, Fonneland 2020). TheSkabma – Snowfallgame, while belonging to this positive folklorism trend, is an exception. The main occurring paraphernalia is the Saami drum, Goavaddis, and the magic the main character has is used by drumming. The performative character of the music is quite rare in video games (Collins 2008, Summers 2016). Putting so much gravity on this element is connected with Saami tradition (Laiti et al. 2020). InSkabma,Saami culture is taken very seriously, without deformation coming from making it alike other more known cultures (especially Siberian shamanism). In European Christian and colonial tradition, the Saami people are considered to be the witchcraft nation. They are stereotypically demonised and misunderstood. In reality, however, their beliefs focused simply on sustaining a connection with nature (Fonneland and Äikäs 2020, Kasten 1989, Hagen 2006). In my presentation, I will show how music inSkabmais an essential part of worldbuilding in the field ofmythos. The game introduces players to a more profound understanding of actual culture through virtual imaginarium by using original elements in a fantastic yet uncompromising way.
The idea of the Celtic, and its relationship with the historic and mythological, in multimedia, is investigated by Simon Nugent as a term that ‘connotes a distinct culture and race of people, primarily located in Ireland and Scotland, but also in Cornwall, Galicia, Brittany, and Wales’; however, the Celtic often tends to be used as an example of northern medievalisms to fetishize lost histories, rather than explicitly relate to any Celtic region. Whereas Nugent identifies the primary focus of celticisms to be that of Scottish and Irish heritage, the Welsh accent has been used in several video games to characterise the mythological Celtic and the magical.
Whilst Welsh voices are used consistently within Western film and television to denote Wales, across diverse multimedia spaces like Star Trek: Discovery (d. Fuller & Kurtzman, 2017) and The Last Kingdom (BBC & Netflix, 2015), they are used in video games to suggest the magical or the ‘other’. This paper will consider how these Welsh voicesare used in the soundscape to signify medieval, mythological, and magical environments and characters, within game worlds, including the localisations of Japanese RPGs Ni No Kuni (Level-5, 2013) and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Monolith Soft, 2017).
In 2013, game developer Jagex released a “new” title: Old School RuneScape (OSRS). Based on a 2007 backup of their award-winning MMORPG RuneScape, OSRS aimed to capitalise on feelings of nostalgia amongst current and former players. Since it’s release, the game has released content based on the modern RuneScape game alongside original content designed to fit within the “retro” OSRS game. Similarly, music within OSRS can be seen as a combination of restored 2007 music, “unmastered” music from RuneScape and new music for OSRS content. The resulting mixture of inspirations and approaches poses challenges to the concept of nostalgia within the OSRS soundtrack.
Technical limitations present from 2003-2007 placed barriers between musicians and composition in the original RuneScape game. These restrictions predominantly exist artificially within OSRS and, on some occasions, have been ignored: sound libraries have been changed, new instruments sampled, and audio hardware/software significantly improved. Alongside changes to audio implementation, challenges to the “authenticity” of the soundtrack can be found: new tracks have been added, including tracks which supplement or entirely replace music found in the original “nostalgic” release, and player experiences of music have been altered through music engine updates. Compositional approaches have also changed significantly, with new composers finding creative solutions to overcome any remaining artificial restrictions.
Despite these changes clearly challenging the nostalgic recreation at the heart of OSRS, the fan reactions to changes within and around the music has been generally positive. An understanding of how the fans visualise the “retro” aesthetic of OSRS can be gained considering issues raised and discussed within the community: how do fans situate their sense of “nostalgia” in the context of a living, changing game? This offers broader contextualisation of questions surrounding recreating audio for “retro” remakes.
|14:30–15:30||Session 9 – Perceiving Worlds|Chair: Jennifer Smith
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona (also known worldwide simply as Persona) is a role-playing video game series that is usually described as ‘urban fantasy’ that takes place in modern Japan. The central concept of the series is collective unconsciousness, and many concepts within it are based on Jungian philosophy and archetypes. The players have a chance to experience two different worlds: the one all of us are used to (conscious) and the one created by the hearts of humanity (subconscious). The difference between the worlds is highlighted by various references to mythology, philosophy, religion, and literature themes that are present in the subconscious world within the game. Two worlds differ from each other in many aspects and so does the music that goes along and creates a unique atmosphere for each part of the series. It also changes the players’ perception of the events that are taking place on the screen, trying to create an audible distinction between the ‘conscious’ and ‘subconscious’ worlds. The aim of this paper is to discuss the ways the said distinction was reached, and how the players perceive these differences within the game and out of context. A survey on music perception and gaming experience among participants from different backgrounds is going to provide the necessary data that will help to reach the aim. My goal for this paper is to address the main differences in music that is used to create two different worlds in Persona series and provide insights on players’ experience and how these differences affect their perception of the games themselves.
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is a 2016 strategy video game in which the player guides a civilization from the Ancient Era to the present day and beyond. This research examines the music of Georgia in Civilization VI through the lens of authenticity. Three criteria are employed for this analysis: authenticity of performers, authenticity of performance practice, and temporal authenticity. The Georgian musical performances are by Trio Kavkasia, a North American group with over eighty-five years of experience singing Georgian music. These performances are arranged and adapted by composer Geoff Knorr, known for his work on other Civilization games. This music is placed in relationship to Georgian music scholarship as well as musical and non-musical scholarship on the Civilization series. Special attention is placed on the hymn “Shen Khar Venakhi” (“You Are the Vineyard”). This hymn was written in the twelfth century by King Demetre II and has survived both Russian and Soviet censorship to become one of the most beloved pieces of music in the country. It is used as the theme music for Georgia, appearing in four arrangements of increasing complexity corresponding to four eras of history (Ancient, Medieval, Industrial, and Atomic). Ultimately, due to the long and complex history of Georgian music, coupled with the very structure of Civilization VI and its musical implementation, complete authenticity is impossible. Even so, the game represents the rich musical tradition of Georgia well and exposes tens of thousands of players to it.
|16:00–17:30||Session 10 – Creatures|Chair: Stephen Tatlow
I’m an ornithologist and conservationist developing the forest, grassland, and wetland habitats of my aviary, attracting birds to my network of nature preserves in Wingspan. I listen across the the tabletop and digital versions of Wingspan, attuning my ear to the ways in which the game is part of this multisensory and interactive tradition of knowing the nonhuman animal through the visual and sonic realism of “field marks”and representational habitat detail that guide species identification in the field. I argue that versionings of Wingspan afford players different kinds of opportunities to look and listen more carefully to species-specific sonic behavior. Fans of the tabletop version expressed online that they wanted to hear,as well as see the birds they collected and played in their personal aviaries. With each expansion pack release, the percentage of sound-oriented fieldnotes increased, but they describe how their calls related to their habitat or make comparisons using anthropocentric musical terms (e.g., “flute-like” song). When players listen to the descriptions on each card they are rarely listening to the birds. While the tabletop game arguably remains the fan favorite, the digital edition takes the concept of building bird sanctuaries by adding the call of each bird played to aviary’s acoustic environment. In contrast to the tabletop version, the Wingspan digital game adaptation provides players with the opportunities to listen to the birds as not just a collection of visual specimens in the ecosystem of their board, but also as a soundscape of avian chaos.
Ludomusicology is concerned with, among other things, sounds and music as design elements in computer game culture and the musical practices of sound production. Part of this sound production is called “sound scraping.” “Sound scraping” refers to the “scraping together” of already known, natural sounds, as well as their rearrangement in the form of overlapping or mixing. The results are sounds that cannot be created or recorded naturally, for example dragon roars or the sounds of a purely virtually existing instrument. This method is primarily used in the field of computer game audiotracks for fantasy, adventure and role-playing games. The term itself was decisively coined in practice by sound designers and composers of game audio and soundtracks, for example the long-time sound designer of the “Game of Thrones” franchise, Paula Fairfield. In an interview with the online magazine GoldDerby on August 20, 2018, she explained in detail how she used sound scraping to create the distinctive dragon roars by using sounds from lions, elephants, tortoises and comodo dragons. But why does a dragon in the computer game originating from the Japanese “Pokémon” franchise ‘roar’ completely differently than a comparable lindworm from the video game of the American “World of Warcraft” franchise? The phenomenon of “sound scraping” to create sounds and music in computer games and its cultural historical background will be the focus of this presentation. The principle of “sound scraping”, despite great practical importance, has so far remained almost completely unnoticed scientifically. Especially in connection with the investigation of the sound production process as well as the cultural-historical background, a real research gap opens up here. It is an intregal and important part of fantastical game music and provides therefore interactions between the virtual and realistic sound world.
In addition to research methods of musicology, those of comparative media studies are also to be applied here. This interdisciplinary orientation enables the integration of different analytical techniques and the exchange with other scholars on an international level.
Many music video games imitate and gamify various activities related to composing and performing music (Austin, 2016) – from the guitar training simulator series Rocksmith (2014) to the viral hypercasual game Piano Tiles (2014). My Singing Monsters (Big Blue Bubble, 2012) is one of the early examples of free-to-play music games, and a very rare example of partnership with successful (at the time) music artists in the free-to-play economy. Sadly, the process of making music is only auxiliary to the core mechanics of the game, which reproduce the typical free-to-play business logic (Seufert, 2014). In my analysis of the political economy of the game, I suggest that it playfully introduces techniques of quantification and reification (Lukacs, 1972) of creative labor to its magical world, which results in alienation from the results of one’s artistic output. On a positive note, I demonstrate that the liberating potential of the game still can be found in its childish monstrosity, which can be best characterized by ‘abjection’ (Kristeva, 1984). This reliance on the typical aesthetic devices of children’s horror separates the game from the typical, potentially exploitative aesthetic of ‘cuteness’ (Page, 2016) in free-to-play games that need to have mass appeal by design. While only a fraction of players uses the game to create music, it becomes a unique, personal, and non-alienable experience for each and every of them.