NACVGM 2020 – Queer Aesthetics and Game Music, or, Has Video Game Music Always Been Queer?

From the Abstract

Tim Summers (University of London)

Queer Aesthetics and Game Music, or, Has Video Game Music Always Been Queer?

Research concerning game music and identity has included discussions of gender (Austin, 2018), class (Ivănescu, 2018) and disability (Plank, 2018).  This paper addresses issues of queer sexuality.  In the spirit of Bonnie Ruberg’s Video Games Have Always Been Queer (2019), this paper considers how queer aesthetics are important elements of game music.  It does so by blending queer musicology (from McClary, 1991 to Walker, 2015).  It considers how game music resists hegemonic logics of musical structures, timbres, and identities in games.

Games present an intimate relationship between music and the player: music is connected to the gamer’s corporeal engagement.  Players us their bodies to affect or resist musical change (in dialogue with the game).  As a result, both in composition and during play, games subvert power dynamics of traditional, desire-driven, non-interactive musical structures.

Games frequently challenge dominant timbral aesthetics of perfection and realism, and instead unashamedly prize unrealistic timbres, non-traditional instrumentation, and non-homogenous (diverse) soundworlds.  Beyond sonic alterity, these timbres resist the assumed superiority and technologically advanced approaches. 

Players may use avatars with radically different identities to their own (including sexual identities). Yet music mediates between character and player.  In musically blurring the boundaries between player and avatar, game music presents a non-essentialist perspective on identity beyond affiliation or assimilation.

Illustrated by games including Tomb Raider and 2064, the paper argues for recognizing the ‘queering’ power of game music, as it challenges linear narratives of progression and homogeneity.

Source: Bardic Knowledge

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