Class meeting #8 – Music in video games – WEDNESDAY 10/24

Originally due for Monday 10/22


Cheng: Introduction and Chapter 2 only


Many of the games consoles that were once used to play the games described in these pieces are no longer available or are only available at great cost to collectors. As a result, researchers sometimes use emulators to reproduce some of the experience of these games. In a short (150-200 word) response, reflect on what is lost when emulators are used in the study of video game music. If possible, refer to one or two specific moments in the readings that you think could have been enriched with reference to the “non-emulable” aspects of playing video games.

5 thoughts on “Class meeting #8 – Music in video games – WEDNESDAY 10/24

  1. erc2175

    The “non-emulable” aspects of games could perhaps be divided into two categories (arbitrary? perhaps…) First there are aspects of playing the game that is fundamentally related to the self-defined experience of “playing a game.” Much of Cheng’s reading is about this. At multiple points, he discusses aspects of experiencing Celes’s aria not apparent to those who haven’t sat through the whole game. There are certainly aspects to the act of playing through a game using a console attached to a television that could contribute to the experience of the emotionally-affected viewers referenced by Cheng. To play a game, immobile, in front of a television is a very different physical act than to play a game on a portable laptop, say, or even on a desktop computer. The immobility of the player, their posture, and the relationship between the body and the television are significant aspects of play; and the emotional payoff can also be enhanced by the dedication of immobility. The second aspect is purely auditory. I trust that emulators will faithfully reproduce the mechanical operations of the original processors responsible for generating audio. That said, as Summers knew to mention, the experience of playing on a television with relatively low quality differs heavily from playing on a desktop with high-quality monitors or speakers.

  2. spn2120

    Music and play

    we are actively listening and integrating music while playing

    – Usability function
    – Smoothness or lack of smoothness between modules during gameplay

    FAN cultural discourse as well

    GAMES are centered around repetition, winning, and thus mastering the music

    – The methods that should be used to examine a particular type of music, rather than the music itself
    Narrates it first person

    Version of game, form of sound technology

    Music programming- parts of game that cause certain music

    Halo soundtrack
    – Gregorian chant
    – Hollywood action music
    – “Alien” exotic female solo non-western music

    Musical changes occur based on the player’s position-> sometimes, it fails, stops playing

    Fragmented audio files

    Middleware- engine dedicated to music

    Mining musical data- see how video game console interprets instructions raw data instructions

    “It delves into how game creators, composers, and players employ (or otherwise come into contact with) music, noise, voice, and silence in ways that purposefully or inadvertently challenge social rules, cultural conventions, technical limitations, aesthetic norms, and ethical codes. Designers of games constantly surprise players with novel concepts and products. Players in turn persistently strike up emergent behaviors that designers themselves might not have anticipated or intended”

    p. 15- different variations are triggered, but the start and end are the same

    In “Analyzing Video Game Music,” the writer references how the game engine deciphers instructions. In some cases, the music may be stored as a text file, with instructions for each music piece during a point in the plot. However, the writer notes that “not all games have such clearly accessible and interpretable code.” (14). I wonder if emulators and original consoles have different ways of interpreting code, and whether this has an impact on the auditory experience of the player. Furthermore, it is unclear how the different “middleware” softwares initiate the randomization process- do emulators have a set method for determining the soundtrack and forgo the randomization process entirely as experimented by the game? While the Summers reading also emphasizes the personal, first person experience of playing a game, as well as the triggers in the gameplay for the resulting musical sound score, there also may be aspects of multiplayer scenarios. William Cheng, in the section entitled “Double Agents,” touches on how communities and networks of players are integral to collective imaginations within game worlds. The dynamism of imagining an alternative personality is similar to a musician who is taken over by the music they are playing, he argues, which I also thought was pretty interesting. It may be hard to measure how many different players double consciousnesses interact with each other in the gameplay situation.

  3. ijg2112

    Emulators can create “better quality” versions of a retro video game, however, this does not necessarily mean this creates a better or enhanced experience for the player. Emulators can reduce a dimension of the player’s interaction with the game. They can make the creative input of a player unnecessary for what a player feels is a complete gaming experience. Cheng talks of how players “interpret the pixelated graphics of early games” as more elaborate visuals or take a deeper meaning out of the simplistic audio clips that retro-games were confined to. With an emulator, sounds can become fuller and graphics can become more elaborate. Without the unique, imaginative twist that every player adds to their own game, to an extent, the experience is the same for every individual. An emulator potentially has more bits to store audio data meaning in a recreation of FFVI, Kefka’s laugh could have been more elaborate, either because it is fuller due to a greater bit-depth or less repetitive due to a longer audio file being stored. Either of these alterations could take away from how “unforgettable” and “unsettling” Kefka’s laugh is(Cheng). Alternatively, an emulator could have made the graphics of a laughing Kefka higher quality which could change the amount that the player associates audio versus visuals with this character.

  4. lnl2110

    Cheng talks specifically about the how many people fail to see the bridge between virtuality and reality, and do not have a grasp on how that distinction exists in a different way for gamers. The “real” and “virtual”-like characteristics, of music, of the controllers, of the video quality, etc, in a game create a semiotics. With an emulator, some of the features, and difficulties, of the original hardware are lost, because the emulator surpasses limitations due to the previous technology. Therefore, the emulator fails to operate on the same level for all features of the game. For example, the close relationship between the sounds that a researcher would hear that create the meaning for the reality-virtuality bridge, could not be compared completely accurately with the experience of reality that the player would have while playing the game. One example of an older-technology sound that Cheng mentioned was the laugh of “Kefka,” which at the time could be only created through synthesized approximations of vocal expression.

  5. clj2142

    Inarguably, playing a retro game on an emulator differs from playing it on its intended console in that the technologies are different. Newer technologies can generate extremely complex waveforms compared to old consoles: for example, the NES only made use of square waves, triangle waves, and a very erratic wave to create noise (though it also had sampling capabilities). Sound quality varies depending on whether you’re using a small speaker, large monitors, headphones, or otherwise, and your perceived existence within the game differs as a result. Depending on how you receive the sound, you could feel completely immersed in the game, totally removed from the game, or anywhere in between. Any technology other than the original technology will never create the exact same sound experience, and in that way part of the game is lost. Just as a digital photograph can never exactly replicate an image you see in front of you, software intended to simulate retro games will never feel the same as playing the game on the original console.

    An argument could be made that just because one’s experiences with these technologies are different, one is not necessarily better than the other. However, as Cheng pointed out, the magic of video game music comes from how much the composers are able to achieve with so few elements. Hearing a retro sound on a modern computer may feel less exciting because you know that the computer could generate a close replica of almost any sound you can think of. A more limited sound space forces you use your imagination and build on the few sounds you hear, whereas a modern computer can create a satisfactory representation of a sound without any user involvement.

Leave a Reply