NACVGM 2020 – Surrender to the Flow: Psychedelia in Videogame Music

From the Abstract

Eli Badra
Surrender to the Flow: Psychedelia in Videogame Music

Although there are numerous examples of psychedelia-influenced imagery in videogames(i.e, Earthbound, Katamari Damacy, LSD: Dream Emulator), the same consideration is seldom given to music, I would like to explore the ways that composers have utilized psychedelic music and sound design to enhance the gameplay experience.

In the book Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic, and Other Satisfactions, author Michael Hicks proposes that successful psychedelic music mimics three prominent effects of LSD: dechronicization (movement beyond conventional perception of time), depersonalization (the loss of one self and the sense of a larger universal unity), and dynamization (in which ”familiar forms dissolve into moving, dancing structures”).

I intend to talk about music that is overtly psychedelic, such as the use of psychedelic rock in Spec Ops: The Line, or the dynamic soundtracks of games like Rez and Lumines, as well as how composers use the above mentioned criteria in their own compositions to throw player expectations a bit off kilter. For instance, Gustavo Santaolalla’s “Home” comes at the
end of The Last of Us, consisting of little more than a tonal drone that eventually gives way to a fuzzy, slightly detuned guitar solo: all of the makings of Americana music, delivered at the end of Joel and Ellie’s cross-country road trip, delivered through the broken lens of what has transpired.

I hope to demonstrate that psychedelia refers to more than simply “drug music,” and to show that it can be a powerful force in videogame composition.

Source: Bardic Knowledge

Recent Posts