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The Soundscapes of Videogames

Amcult 204 Term Project

Matthew Greenbaum

on 19 April 2013

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Transcript of The Soundscapes of Videogames

The 8-bit Era 1978 Pong! Space Invasion Rally-X 1980 Pac Man 1980 1972 The Soundscapes of Video Games The Legend of Zelda Super Mario Bros. 1985 Final Fantasy 1987 Ballblazer The 16-bit Era Zelda: A Link to the Past 1991 Monkey Island 1991 Streets of Rage 1991 The 32-bit Era Quake 1996 Guitar Hero 2005 Rayman 1995 DOOM II 1994 Sixth Gen and Beyond COD: Modern Warfare 2 2011 Halo: Combat Evolved 2001 Portal 2 2011 Baba Yetu 2009 In the beginning, there was silence. Video games were little more than dots on a screen. This all changed in 1972, however, when Nolan Bushnell connected a tiny amplified speaker to the prototype circuit board for his new game, Pong. It was an immediate success and sparked a new hype in video games. From then on, the dots people saw on their screens would be accompanied by sounds from their speakers. Follow along on this timeline to explore the evolution of those early beeps into the award winning masterpieces of modern times. The dates used are based on North American releases where applicable.

**Please, if you're not already, view this presentation in full screen and use the forward and back arrows to move through the slides!** Introduction Zelda: Ocarina of Time 1998 Dance Dance Revolution 1998 Let there be sound! Sound effects are used to give games a rhythm. The pulsing effect in Space Invasion speeds up as the enemies move closer and add a sense of urgency for gamers. Games with continuous background music appear on the scene. Games enter pop culture. The Pac-Man sounds become ubiquitous. The song Pac-Man fever comes out two years later and makes heavy use of these bits. Spy Hunter 1983 1987 1988 Stereo sound appears in games. Spy Hunter dedicates one of the channels to the Peter Gunn theme (McDonald, 2004). Perhaps one of the best known games of all time, Super Mario Bros. features sounds and music which are tightly synced to the gameplay and offer aural clues. Composer Koji Kondo's second score after Mario, the Zelda theme pushed the boundaries of symphonic compositions based in "chiptunes" on the NES (Collins, 2008b). Composer Nobuo Uematsu scores the first Final Fantasy game. His scores are now considered "by fans and historians to be the best video game music ever made" (McDonald, 2004). On the PC front, developers start using algorithms to create non-repeating and infinitely looping music which can be stored with only a tiny bit of memory. Ballblazer, on the Commodore64, created the tune you will hear by randomly modifying a set of 32 riffs. In 1989, the Sega Gensis is released in North America and ushers in the 16-bit era of consoles. It's sound chip is far more advanced than the NES from the previous era. It excels in producing a rock n' roll instrumentation which characterizes many of the games found on the system (Collins, 2008b). Streets of Rage exemplifies many of the advanced audio techniques such as reverb. In 1991, the SNES is released in North America and is set to compete with the Sega Genesis. It's audio processor is farm more advanced and capable of a wider array of sounds. Still, many game developers choose to retain sonic elements of the "chiptune" era NES (Collins, 2008b). As a result, the music on the SNES is markedly different from the rock sound of the Genesis.
Here we revisit the Zelda theme to demonstrate this effect. As usual, the PC is at the bleeding edge of technological innovations. In 1987, the MT-32 MIDI soundcard was released and quickly became the standard for videogame music. This 1991 game, although released a little later, demonstrates the first game to use the proprietary LucasFilms' sound engine running on an MT-32 soundcard (Collins, 2008b). The effect is music which sounds far more natural than any consoles of the era. Video Games Live! 2005 With the advent of the Compact Disc (CD), game developers were afforded much more space, so they could build bigger games. Along with this came the ability to store music files in their original form, so that every gamer was guaranteed to hear the song as the composer intended. DOOM II, therefore, is one of the last popular games to use MIDI for sound generation.

Also of interest is the idea of creating MIDI music based on real songs. For instance, many of Doom's tracks are based on popular songs from bands like Slayer and Megadeth. No royalties were paid out for their use, but bands were happy to have their music promoted for free. Rayman was a release title game for the original PlayStation. It features music which was stored directly on the game disc, but could also be played in a regular music CD player. Take special note of the diversity of instruments. Composers could now use any sound at their disposal, rather than the predefined sounds of digitally generated music. Without the former restrictions on sound, game developers were free to have anyone they wanted to compose music for their games. Quake, produced by id Software, was one of the first to feature music composed by someone from the music industry. In this instance, it was Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, a popular rock and metal band. The last Zelda game to feature music composed by Koji Kondo, this game was released on the Nintendo 64 which featured a highly advanced sound processing engine. As a result, this game makes strong use of things like real time music blending for aural cues. For instance, while transitioning into a fight, the music will fade into a more dramatic instrumentation. Similarly, a core component of the game is music, since players are expected to remember short melodies in order to progress. These melodies are woven into the other songs, so that players often feel a sense of déjàvu when they first encounter the melodies on their own (Whalen, 2004). Although this wasn't the first time a game featured input based on music, this was by far the most popular at the time and set off an enduring craze. Consequently, it spawned numerous sequels and is still found around arcades and on consoles to present day.

This clip shows the original version being played to the song Little Bitch by The Specials. Listen for the sound of the tapping on the pad. It is a soundmark of arcades at the time. Similar to games like Ocarina of Time, Halo broke ground as having the most advanced audio processing engine of its day. The music was composed in fragments that could be dynamically combined, so that the effect was a continuous soundtrack which crescendos with the actions of the player. As such, no two play throughs of the game will have the same musical score, but will feel natural to the action on the screen. Presented here is the theme music which is widely known in pop culture. By this time, game music had successfully pervaded pop culture. Game soundtracks were being sold on CDs and covers were widely found. In response to this demand, Video Games Live! put on its first production of a live orchestra covering numerous popular game songs. Though it was not the first time this was done, it was by far the biggest show, premiering to an audience of 11,000 people (Video Games Live, 2005). It featured video game footage synced to the music, which was a unique element. Shown here is a more recent show, but it is representative of what the premier was like. *The video repeats midway through, so please disregard that portion. Guitar Hero was first game to successfully start a craze for the faux instrument genre. It featured covers of dozens of popular songs which could then be played on a guitar-like input device. The game spawned numerous sequels and imitations. Rock Band, for instance, is actually made by Harmonix which produced the original Guitar Hero, but sold the rights to that series. One of the later installments in the Call of Duty series, this game is especially notable for its soundtrack which was scored by Hans Zimmer. Zimmer is famous for his work in the movie industry where he scored over 100 films including Gladiator, The Dark Knight, and Inception. Portal 2 is a recently released and highly popular puzzle game. It is a contemporary example of a game which features a procedurally generated soundtrack. The in-game music is dynamically produced as the player solves the puzzles and incorporates sound signals from items in the environment along with keynote sounds (Wilde, 2011). The result is industrial and futuristic sounding. Listen to this clip and make note of how the song layers with the player's actions. In this year, game music received one of the highest honors in the music industry. Christopher Tin received a Grammy Award for his song Baba Yetu which was written as the theme for the game Civilization III. Although there is still no Game Music category, perhaps there is room for hope that one day it will be added (Weir, 2011). Pokemon 1998 While advances in game music were being made all around, mobile gaming, due to various constraints, was still in the 8-bit era. It featured a single mono-speaker, but at least had a stereo headphone jack. The song featured here will be known to nearly everyone who grew up in the 90s. It is the theme from the first installments in the Pokemon series, which is now the second most lucrative franchise in the world after Mario. Today, the gaming industry is bigger than ever and is a $65b industry. New videogames frequently outperform box office hits in sales and this trend is only expected to rise (Gaudiosi, 2012). As this trajectory continues, we can expect that the amount of time and money being dedicated to scoring games will match it. This means that future games will have scores that are on par with if not better than the best box office hits. Indeed, the scores will likely even make it to the Billboard lists. Beyond this, their presentations inside game worlds will only become more intricate and involved. In essence, what started as beeps coming from people's basements has blossomed into an industry on its own. Conclusion These songs and games were chosen based on several dimensions. Primarily, the games needed to exhibit something groundbreaking or unique. For instance, technological firsts, such as stereo sound, were taken into consideration. Games were also chosen based on their popularity and prominence in popular culture. This is especially true of games in the later half. Finally, they were selected based on how well known their various composers were.

Several songs don't fit this mold, but relate more generally to the music of the video game industry as a whole such as PacMan fever. They were chosen based on qualities similar to those listed above however. A Word About the Curation Criteria General References Amazing Studio. (1998). Heart of Darkness. Interplay Entertainment.
Atari Inc., & Allan Alcorn. (1972). Pong [Arcade Game]. Atari Inc..
Bally Midway. (1983). Spy Hunter [Arcade Game]. Bally Midway.
Blizzard Entertainment. (2010). StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty [Computer software]. Blizzard Entertainment.
Bungie. (2001). Halo: Combat Evolved [Xbox software]. Microsoft Game Studios.
Firaxis Games. (2005). Sid Meier's Civilization IV [Computer software]. 2K Games.
Game Freak. (1998). Pokémon Red and Blue [Game Boy Color software]. Nintendo.
Harmonix Music Systems. (2005). Guitar Hero [PlayStation 2 software]. RedOctane.
Id Software. (1994). Doom II: Hell on Earth [Computer software]. GT Interactive.
Id Software. (1996). Quake [Computer software]. GT Interactive.
Infinity Ward. (2009). Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Activision.
Konami Computer. (1999). Dance Dance Revolution [Arcade Game]. Konami of America.
Lucasfilm Games. (1984). Ballblazer [Computer software]. Atari.
Lucasfilm Games. (1990). The Secret of Monkey Island [Computer software]. LucasArts.
Namco. (1980). Pac-Man [Arcade Game]. Namco Midway.
Namco. (1980). Rally-X [Arcade Game]. Midway.
Nintendo. (1985). Super Mario Bros. [NES software]. Nintendo.
Nintendo. (1986). The Legend of Zelda [NES software]. Nintendo.
Nintendo. (1991). The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past [SNES software]. Nintendo.
Nintendo. (1998). The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time [Nintendo 64 software]. Nintendo.
Sega. (1991). Streets of Rage [Sega Genesis software]. Sega.
Square. (1987). Final Fantasy [NES software]. Square.
Taito Corporation, & Tomohiro Nishikado. (1979). Space Invaders [Arcade Game]. Midway.
Ubisoft. (1995). Rayman [PlayStation software]. Ubisoft.
Valve Corporation. (2011). Portal 2. Valve Corporation. Game References Collins, K. (2008). From Pac-Man to pop music: Interactive audio in games and new media. Aldershot, Hampshidre, England: Ashgate.

Collins, K. (2008). Game sound: An introduction to the history, theory, and practice of video game music and sound design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Dillion, K. (2011, September 18). The Art of Scoring. IGN. Retrieved from http://www.ign.com/articles/2011/09/19/the-art-of-scoring

Federman, D. (2011, June 20). Settling the Score: The History and Practice of Video Game Music. Perspectives RSS. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://www.igda.org/newsletter/2011/06/20/settling-the-score-the-history-and-practice-of-video-game-music/

GamesRadar. (2010, October 10). Gaming's most important evolutions. GamesRadar. Retrieved from http://www.gamesradar.com/gamings-most-important-evolutions/

Gaudiosi, J. (2012, July 18). New Reports Forecast Global Video Game Industry Will Reach $82 Billion By 2017. Forbes. Retrieved March 16, 2013, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/johngaudiosi/2012/07/18/new-reports-forecasts-global-video-game-industry-will-reach-82-billion-by-2017/

History of Video Game Music. (n.d.). Retro Junk. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://www.retrojunk.com/article/show/3453/history-of-video-game-music

Jenkins, D. (2012, December 14). The Greatest Video Game Music 2 interview â interactive soundtrack. Metro The Greatest Video Game Music 2 Interview Interactivesoundtrack Comments. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://metro.co.uk/2012/12/14/the-greatest-video-game-music-2-interview-interactive-soundtrack-3317120/

MacDonald, M. (2005, May 3). Zelda Exposed - Koji Kondo Interview. 1Up.com. Retrieved from http://www.1up.com/features/zelda-exposed?pager.offset=0

McDonald, G. (2004). A History of Video Game Music - GameSpot.com. Gamespot. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://www.gamespot.com/features/a-history-of-video-game-music-6092391/?page=1

Miller, K. (2012). Playing along: Digital games, YouTube, and virtual performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mystical Stone Entertainment, LLC. (2005). What is Video Games Live. Video Games Live. Retrieved from http://www.videogameslive.com/index.php?s=info

NPR. (2008, April 13). The Evolution of Video Game Music. NPR. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89565567

Pac-Man Fever [Recorded by Buckner & Garcia]. (1982). Buckner & Garcia. (1981).

Parish, J. (2007, March 7). GDC 2007: Mario Maestro Shares His Secrets. 1Up.com. Retrieved from http://wwww.1up.com/news/gdc-2007-mario-maestro-shares

Patterson, S. (2008, June 3). The History of Music Games. GamesRadar. Retrieved from http://www.gamesradar.com/the-history-of-music-games/

Purves, R. (2010). A Video Game Odyssey. MFiles. Retrieved March 28, 2013, from http://www.mfiles.co.uk/video-game-music-history.htm

Tin, C. (2005). Baba Yetu.

Weir, W. (2011, February 10). From the Arcade to the Grammys: The Evolution of Video Game Music. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/02/from-the-arcade-to-the-grammys-the-evolution-of-video-game-music/71082/

Whalen, Z. (2004). Play Along - An Approach to Videogame Music. The International Journal of Computer Game Research, 4(1). Retrieved from http://www.gamestudies.org/0401/whalen/

Wilde, T. (2011, April 13). Portal 2's dynamic music - an interview with composer Mike Morasky. GamesRadar. Retrieved from http://www.gamesradar.com/portal-2s-dynamic-music-an-interview-with-composer-mike-morasky-and-five-tracks-to-listen-to-now/

Winter, D. (n.d.). Atari PONG - First steps. Pong Story. Retrieved from http://www.pong-story.com/atpong1.htm Heart of Darkness 1998 Also in this year was another first. Heart of Darkness became the first game to be scored by a lived orchestra. Its soundtrack was composed Bruce Broughton who is famous for his scoring of the movie Silverado (Purves, 2010). (Tin, 2005) (Buckner and Garcia, 1982) Full Playlist with Links In case any of the embedded videos are missing, here is a complete copy of the playlist with links: Pong: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHsYjWm8XSI
Space Invasion: www.youtube.com/watch?v=opru6qPsPa4
Rally-x: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrb6aiTEQho
Pac-Man Fever: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-MONIvP6kI
Spy Hunter: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqw6yRlWc2c
Super Mario Bros: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGX4obVl64w
The Legend of Zelda: www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5biIXoKAHo
Final Fantasy: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lViSeukzQOQ
Ballblazer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E4nJCcG4iQ
Streets of Rage: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgjlDZZjuEo
The Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkH2zETKqws
The Secret of Monkey Island: www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3dB0qEcG20
Doom II - Hell on Earth: www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7T1KuW0S8I
Rayman: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqDuhaXfWxI
Quake: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mv5Jvr2Fp48
The Legend of Zelda - The Ocarina of Time: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-I_Y9agnUc
Dance Dance Revolution (The Specials - Little Bitch): www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPUWszPMMwY
Pokemon: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdJQopRuH1E
Heart of Darkness: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx_yGHW3P0U
Halo - Combat Evolved: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5yVOFokLVY
Video Games Live (StarCraft II Theme): www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKyBnQlAFnE
Guitar Hero (Megadeth - Symphony of Destruction): www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZiJnWtFa1k
Call of Duty - Modern Warfare II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMDPwBikzps
Portal 2: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSBC4WWO3RY
Civilization IV (Christopher Tin - Baba Yetu): www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJiHDmyhE1Ad
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