At the Push of a Button: Player/Avatar Fusion and the ‘Gestural Potential’ of Video Game Music

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Videogame music engages players, summoning us into the magical, virtual world it soundscapes, encouraging us to adhere to the ludic parameters at play. In this paper, I outline a new gestural analytical framework better suited to the playful audiovisual individualities of videogame design in order to reveal how players might become immersed in games.
I will present a new analytical theory, graphically mapping gestures so as to determine the ways in which videogame music can successfully engage players to feel part of the ludo-narrative journey through a concept I term the ‘gestural potential’ of music. This paper presents a remapped recontextulisation of musical gesture theories presented by Robert Hatten (2004; 2018) in combination with a further fusion of scholarship, synthesising concepts from film and media studies, dance pedagogy, art, research that have, so far, been marked by their limited contact. By exploring ideas of design (Isbister, 2017), culture (Kassabian, 2013), and analysis (Summers, 2016; Middleton, 1993), we can identify how best to examine videogame music to reveal how players engage with games.
By analysing the intriguing, juxtapositional ludomusical content of the videogames Super Mario World (1990) and Super Metroid (1994) side by side, this paper reveals how musical gestures can immerse players in disparate game worlds, leading to a audiovisual phenomenon I term ‘ludomusical cocooning.’ In a rapidly altering world, in which primarily audiovisual technologies of virtual entertainment and escape are competing for our attention, this paper’s analysis of how that very attention can be grasped is a timely one.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventMusic and the Moving Image XIX, NYU Steinhardt - NYU Steinhardt, New York, United States
Duration: 26 May 202328 May 2023


ConferenceMusic and the Moving Image XIX, NYU Steinhardt
Abbreviated titleMaMIXIX
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew York

Cite this