Dimensions of Game Music History

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


If the medium of the video game has one lesson to teach us, it is that fixed linear approaches to narratives are not always the most satisfying or appropriate ways to engage with ideas and materials. Taking my cue from the subject under discussion, I here present not the history of game music, but rather, a few different ways of drawing histories of game music.
There are three types of game music history that this chapter examines: technological histories, game type histories and reception histories. These historical perspectives intersect and overlap, but they each have something in particular to reveal about the music of video games. Furthermore, they indicate how game music may challenge our usual processes of writing music history.
The first, and most traditional, way of understanding game music history is through an outline of the chronological stages of game music. I explore how technological evolution facilitated the musical possibilities of games. The second part of the chapter advances a different perspective, using the lens of game ‘type’ or ‘genre’, which includes discussion of musical functions over and above technological developments. The third and final section examines how players’ expectations of music in games have changed. It also details the history of game music outside the game in concerts and commercial recordings.
This chapter serves the dual purpose of charting histories of game music, while at the same time, acting as a historiographical study of game music. It is a guide to game music, and simultaneously, a guide to writing about game music.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound
EditorsMiguel Mera, Ronald Sadoff, Ben Winters
Place of PublicationNew York
ISBN (Electronic)9781317398974
ISBN (Print)9781138855342
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • videogames
  • history
  • reception
  • Dragon Quest
  • video game concerts
  • video game albums

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