Understanding Game Scoring: The Evolution of Compositional Practice for and Through Gaming


Abstract / About the project


Have you ever turned a video game into a musical instrument? That is, have you ever decided to — temporarily — change your competitive goals to musical ones, while playing a game? My guess is that I am not alone in indulging in this activity, because gaming is an experiential art form that involves different modes of cognitive and sensory interaction. One of these modes of interaction is musical, but the musical experience of gaming is different from traditional music listening, and the way video game music composers, or “game scorers” write music for games is different from traditional musical scoring activities. Game scores are unique in that they must allow for an unprecedented level of musical flexibility, given the high degree of user interactivity the video game medium enables and encourages. As such, game scoring necessarily constitutes an at least partially aleatoric, or “chance” compositional activity, the final score being determined as much through gameplay as traditional composition. In other words, game scorers arguably collaborate with players to produce the final score for a game. In Understanding Game Scoring, I explore this collaboration through case studies of the Nintendo Entertainment System sound hardware configuration, and game scores, including the canonic score for Super Mario Bros. (1985).

This is a forthcoming publication in 2021 by Monograph, Routledge.