The Aesthetics of Video Game Music: Epic Texturing in the First-Person Shooter

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This article investigates game music aesthetics through considering how music encourages player immersion. In a first-person shooter (FPS), the issue of immersion is highlighted because of the restricted perspective. The article develops the concept of musical ‘texturing’ to explore the ways game music deploys strategically chosen musical signifiers, importing associations that can support signification on the visual level, or fill in gaps left on the other textual levels (dialogue, visual, etc.). The result creates the sense of depth, implied detail and rounded context within the surface level of gameplay activity. Texturing is particularly valuable for the FPS in order to encourage player engagement. The term ‘epic’ describes the narrative vertigo between an intimate personal level of storytelling and a broad backdrop, which acts as a motivation or plot device for the manipulation of the personal story. This is similar to the experience of the FPS: from the avatar’s personal viewpoint, the backdrops/settings are not of immediate importance, other than for the contexts they provide the player – the sense of being part of a larger story or world. Through using musical texturing to create an epic construct, the FPS encourages immersion. Epic texturing is a recurring aesthetic trope, explored here with reference to Wolfenstein 3D (1992), Doom (1993), GoldenEye 007 (1997), Halo: Combat Evolved (2001), Half-Life 2 (2004) and Bioshock (2007).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-151
JournalThe Soundtrack
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • video games
  • videogames
  • ludomusicology
  • immersion
  • game music
  • dynamic music
  • interactivity
  • Bioshock
  • Wolfenstein
  • First-Person Shooter
  • Doom
  • Halo

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