Video Game Music - History, Form and Genre

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This dissertation investigates video game music from a musicological perspective, considering the role, function and effect of music in games. I hypothesize that music’s significance for the gamer is founded upon the way the player interacts with the game. The nature of this interaction is determined by what is termed the ‘interactive genre’ in question – the type of interaction typical for a particular class of games. Thus the musical analysis of game interactive genres is an appropriate and potentially rewarding way of understanding game music. These genres of interaction are distinct and historically established, which allows a survey of many games over a relatively long chronological period. Musical analysis of interactive genres, in turn, illuminates the way in which gamers play and understand games.
After creating a contextual frame for the study of game music, the body of the dissertation focuses on a genre-by-genre examination. Each chapter considers the features of a particular genre (or genres sharing key features), and examines representative games to ascertain the relationship between the game and the music. Certain genres prioritize distinct modes of interaction and components of musical function because of the interactive mechanism of the game, and thus provide the opportunity for the examination of particular musical concerns. That this is so indicates the close relationship between music and gameplay/interaction in the video game medium. A case study is used to demonstrate a ‘deep reading’ of the musical concerns or issues that are seen to feature prominently in the game genre in question. The study concludes with a summary in the form of a chapter on action games that focuses on the aspects of game music that can be extracted from the preceding discussions. The epilogue explores how game music may reveal the playfulness of the human-music interaction in a more general way.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
  • Heldt, Guido, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • game audio
  • interactivity
  • immersion
  • genre
  • ludomusicology
  • game music

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