Steven Reale (Youngstown State University)
SERENDIPITOUS INTERTEXTUALITY: VIDEO GAMES AND ROYALY-FREE MUSIC
Internet-based distribution technologies offer “indie” development houses access to the video games marketplace at large, making it possible for shoestring operations to sell their works to a wide audience of gamers. Kevin MacLod publishes royalty-free music under the label Incompetech, and several indie game developers have taken advantage of this zero-cost option for acquiring musical assets for their games. The pool of MacLeod’s compositions on offer being limited, it was likely that the same music would eventually appear in multiple titles. Julia Kristeva has described the “literary word” as “an intersection of textual surfaces” (1986, 36). A close neighbor to Michael Klein’s “aleatoric intertextuality that roams freely through time” (2004, 12), this paper proposes that when such an intersection occurs when works draw independently from a single source, a serendipitous intertextuality emerges, inviting signification to diffuse through their nexus point.
This talk considers three games by disparate developers that each feature MacLeod’s music: Small Worlds (David Shute, 2010), Kerbal Space Program (Squad, 2015), and The Bridge (The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, 2013). After positioning the musics within a conceptual integration network that connects them with themes of science fiction exploration (Zbiowski 2005), the paper shows how the intertextual relationship allows significations from one game to spill over into the others. A player may begin to draw associations and connections between otherwise unrelated gaming experiences, and the serendipitous intertextuality that arises among these games suggests that the player read them against and alongside each other in ways perhaps far beyond the designers’ imaginings.
Klien, Michael. 2004. Intertextuality in Western Art Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Kristeva, Julia. 1986. “Word, Dialogue and Novel.” In The Kristeva Reader. Ed. Toril Moi, 34-61. New York: Columbia University Press.
Zbikowski, Lawrence. 2005. Conceptualizing Music: Cognitive Structure, Theory, and Analysis. Oxford University Press.
Source: Bardic Knowledge