Long-time Brainy Gamer reader Ben Abraham has been thinking a lot about music in video games, particularly in first-person shooters. A 4th-year Bachelor of Music honours - I'm spelling it your way, Ben ;-) - candidate in Sydney, Australia, Ben's final thesis project is devoted to the use of music and sound in Halo 2. He humbly describes this effort as "POSSIBLY THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK ON VIDEOGAME MUSIC OF OUR TIMES!" [grin]
In particular, he is interested in how music communicates meaning to the player in ways that go beyond story and narrative:
I wish to...identify important salient features of the relationship between the music and other non-musical aspects of the game. For example, I wish to analyse specific levels of the game by using concepts such as ‘level flow’, ‘progression’ and ‘optimal paths or strategies’, in an attempt to uncover meaningful relationships to the music...
The most reduced and implicit form of feedback that the player receives from the game is information about the player’s state; either the player is still alive and can continue on ‘progressing’ through the game to its conclusion, or the player is dead and must try again. This information reveals inarticulate or tacit aspects of the game that the designers intentionally and unintentionally included in the game, and which I believe are a vital aspect of the ‘meaning’ created by the game.
The crux of the rationale for this approach is a belief that Halo 2 locates much of its created meaning (in a largely non-narrative sense) outside of traditional narrative structures and devices such as dialogue, narration and cinematic direction. In this way, I believe that I will see a parallel to meanings and ideas created by and revealed in the music.
Ben's serious and inquisitive approach to his project makes teachers like me burst into fits of happy dancing, even from half a world and a hemisphere away. He welcomes your thoughts and suggestions on his thesis, the full description of which can be found here. Check it out, offer some input, and get your name on the Acknowledgements page of his final submission.
Best of luck, Ben!