Master’s study – Music Design for Video Games

Project Goals

In general, computer game developers create their products from a design perspective where the development originates from game designers; Experts in “how games work”. There is plenty of research in the field of game design, which is widely used by developers. Therefore, there is an established analysis method and jargon in the gaming industry that describes how and why a game engages its users. One method is based on a so-called MDA framework.[1]

Music is present in almost all computer games. But music creators usually have a lack of knowledge about game design. Similarly, game developers also have a lack of knowledge about music. Knowledge of how and why a piece of music engages the listener. Therefore, we have a need to build bridges between our two industries, so that the collaboration between us can be more effective and thus utilize the full potential of music.

The aim of the study is to establish a useful method for music producers that is related to the game developers’ creative process. This method is what will be called music design for video games.

The study will result in a music project that explores a work method where decisions in production are derived from the MDA framework. The end product will be created based on a computer game that contains existing game mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics.

The question that motivates the survey Music Design for Video Games is therefore: What is it? and What is not?

Purpose

The study will explore and define the concept of music design for computer games, because there is no concrete definition on the topic.

In a broader perspective, the work will form a foundation for future studies in composition and music production for computer games, which need to take into account the games’ development and production chain.

Finally, music design will act as a hub between two worlds that currently need each other, but who do not yet know how to communicate.

Method

The study will include a number of interviews with various music creators, game designers and audio directors who are active in game development. These will be used to form an overview of the issue and the views that exist around the project’s topic in each industry.

The research will also result in an argumentative text about what music design for computer games is and how its practitioners can relate to the subject.

Above all, the study will establish how music can be created by analyzing games and the intended music based on an MDA framework. A method where decisions about music production will be justified through the theoretical lens that the framework presents.

The study will be documented on a blog with reflections, images, transcripts and other media that provide an insight into how the research went.

Schedule

The study will mainly consist of two parts.

The first part includes searching and analyzing study material on the subject, as well as interviews with experts. The period is expected to end by October and a suitable gaming project should then be available for the start of the second part.

From November, the study will focus on the creation of music for the game project and the application of the working method being investigated. In parallel with the final work, reflections and analyzes are documented in text form to prepare a final project report in December.

References

[1] Robin Hunicke, Marc Leblanc, Robert Zubek (2005) MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from Northwestern University, https://users.cs.northwestern.edu/~hunicke/MDA.pdf

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