Sculpting with Scores: Musical World-Building in Medievalist Role-Playing Games
MetadataShow full item record
Music is a core part of video games for numerous reasons: it can contextualise the game and provide structure, communicate gameplay information, evoke feelings and emotions, or it can simply be enjoyable to listen to. But music can do much more: it has the power to influence perception and shape gameworlds. Numerous existing studies investigate how video game music contextualises gameworlds historically, culturally, and topographically. These studies mainly rely on the use of cultural and genre-specific conventions. However, convention-based approaches have repeatedly brushed over many ways in which music can establish and enrich gameworlds. Studies that do examine other types of musical world-building besides broad contextualisation are rare and narrow in scope. Consequently, the abilities of music to define and enrich environmental details remain underexamined. In this thesis, I make a start towards a comprehensive theory of musical world-building that addresses how music develops gameworlds on large and small scales—from general moods to specific game objects. I do this by proposing and applying a method that focuses on intrinsic musical techniques. This means examining a video game’s score from a formalist perspective and avoiding other factors external to the game—notably conventions—to explain what music does for the gameworld and why. As I demonstrate in this thesis, this thought process can prompt an increased awareness of subtle instances of musical world-building that would otherwise likely go unnoticed. Because of the emphasis on intrinsic musical techniques, I propose the theory of intrinsic musical world-building. This theory requires an alternative approach to that when examining conventional contextualisation. However, the two diverging approaches are most valuable for understanding world-building when considered as complementing rather than challenging each other. I demonstrate my theory of intrinsic musical world-building by analysing how music shapes recurring environment types in medievalist role-playing games—a game genre that relies heavily on world-building. More specifically, after explaining the relation of this genre to musical world-building and explaining my methodology, I analyse scoring strategies for constructing forests, urban environments, and magical settings through a diverse selection of in-depth case studies. This thesis ultimately shows just how far music can go in building gameworlds beyond the limitations of the screen.