"This Sounds Familiar...": A Model for Tropes in Video Games

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Video games are both connected to, and distinct from, other forms of media. Like all media, video games also create, iterate, and develop tropes, in which music and sound are particularly important. Some scholars have started to deal with musical tropes in games, but discussion is hampered by a lack of a concrete definition. This paper presents definitions and a model for understanding tropes unique to games.
To propose a unified definition of video game tropes, this paper synthesizes prior game music research (Atkinson, 2019; Yee, 2020; Bradford, 2020), topic theory (Monelle, 2006; Hatten, 2014), and games studies (Perron, 2014). I define video game tropes as being ludo-narrative and present a model for identifying these tropes and their sounds as they are found in games. The proposed model consists of three levels of trope—unit, topic, and process—to account for the myriad formulations and functions of tropes in games.
This research seeks to clear up the terminological confusion about the term trope in video game discourse. It also assists in the analysis and categorization of tropes as encountered in games. By using the proposed ludo-narrative trope model, researchers can identify game-specific tropes—as opposed to imported tropes—and isolate their constituent elements, leading to an increased understanding of the effective building blocks of this shared lexicon between game developers and players. Ultimately, this trope approach reveals a fundamental aspect of the communicative and aesthetic dimension of games: how meaning is conveyed to gamers through sound.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2024
EventNorth American Conference on Video Game Music 2024 - Michigan State University, East Lansing, United States
Duration: 16 Mar 202417 Mar 2024


ConferenceNorth American Conference on Video Game Music 2024
Abbreviated titleNACVGM 11
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityEast Lansing

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