W. Cheng, Sound Play

William Cheng's book from 2014 is about games and music. Something for all of us? Its full title is Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination and indeed video ("computer") part takes a lot of the contents with five chapters revolving around Fallout, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill, The Lord of the Rings Online and Team Fortress.

The book is a good read for anyone interested in video games or music and its approach it's not very technical but rather essaistic leaving lot of opportunity for personal impressions and social critique. What I would point to a possible obstacle is language that sometimes gets a bit flowery and might cause unnecessary trouble even to advanced non-native readers. But in humanities eloquence is probably considered almost as important as content, so the book is probably just the way it should be to serve its purpose.

Nevertheless, here at G4M we are preoccupied with non-digital games (let's not dive into precise naming of these) so why this quasi-book-review appears here? Let's turn our attention two sections, one from the Introduction and another from the chapter about LOTRO. First is generally about relations of music and games. The author stresses all the similarities by showing the importance of interactivity in ensemble performance.

Performance, collaboration, and competition are vital in musical and gaming cultures alike. For every sublime rendition of a Beethoven symphony at Carnegie Hall, one could find an expertly orchestrated clan of warriors raiding a dragon's lair in World of Warcraft.

Interesting idea referred in the book is the method of analysing music focused on interactions between instruments (the term 'ludomusicology' would fit to such research, but it was claimed lately by just the studies in the spirit of Sound Play). That general and theoretical line of thought centers around the music itself and actually seems to have a lot of potential for music games of our kind.

The second passage of our focus is in the chapter titled "Role-Playing Toward a Virtual Musical Democracy". In the context of an MMORPG we get general remarks about social circumstances of games and music and their accessibility. Presence of digital aspect is strong both for games (computer games) and for music (sampling, computer usage…). Is turntable would be classified as "easier" than violin for example? From the perspective of games it is ideal to have a high skillcap (preferably which keeps you engaged for a lifetime) but also low entry treshold. And we can purposefully design the experience for that.

We can easily apply an approach of equity between musicians and non-musicians to G4M type of games. In this case we will need to work more with the attitude than with the technology. Usual strategy then is: first widen your horizon about what music is, then check out to what extent you can actively participate in it yourself as a peer. There is a lot of content related to this very topic in Sound Play even if it directly refers to virtual communities, if you are interested in these topics, check the book out.

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