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Performance, Politics, and Play

Edited by Michael Austin

Bloomsbury Academic Press, July 2016

Vol. 4 in Approaches to Digital Games Series


Now available here:

Music Video Games


About Music Video Games

Music Video Games takes a look (and listen) at the popular genre of music games – video games in which music is at the forefront of player interaction and gameplay. With chapters on a wide variety of music games, ranging from well-known console games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band to new, emerging games for smartphones and tablets, scholars from diverse disciplines and backgrounds discuss the history, development, and cultural impact of music games. 

Each chapter investigates important themes surrounding the ways in which we play music and play with music in video games. Starting with the precursors to music games - including Simon, the hand-held electronic music game from the 1980s, Michael Austin's collection goes on to discuss issues in musicianship and performance, authenticity and “selling out,” and composing, creating, and learning music with video games. Including a glossary and detailed indices, Austin and his team shine a much needed light on the often overlooked subject of music video games. 



Editorial Reviews


Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play is a fascinating and timely collection, the first devoted to exploring the complexity and variety of music-based games from the 1980s to the present. This volume will be essential reading for anyone interested in better understanding how music and gameplay interact.

William Gibbons, Assistant Professor of Musicology, Texas Christian University, USA

Musical video games offer game players a unique glimpse into musicianship, inspire musical creativity, memory, dexterity and, for some players, spark a lifelong passion for sound. This important anthology brings together a diverse collection of essays on all aspects of music games, providing one of the first broad explorations of the genre, and serving as an important introduction to theoretical ideas and scholarship on music games.

- Karen Collins, Canada Research Chair in Interactive Audio, the Games Institute, University of Waterloo, Canada

This is a joyous collection of essays exploring the complex and multifaceted musicality of video games. From arcades in Amarillo Texas to school classrooms in Scotland, and from Michael Jackson to cartoon animated singing monsters, the book traces the intersections of video games and music, with a particular focus on 'music games'. Like the games they investigate, the essays are both entertaining and rewarding. The chapters in this volume help us to make sense not only of the games themselves, but they tell us just as much about the wider musical cultures and practices in which the games sit. Accessible for the musician and non-musician, gamer and non-gamer, this represents an exciting development in video game music studies.

- Tim Summers, Teaching Fellow, Royal Holloway University of London, UK and Co-Founder of the Ludomusicology Research Group UK


From a deep history of Simon to a theory of playable musical personae in Michael Jackson games, this lively volume brims with interdisciplinary insight into the nature of interfaces, instruments, and interactive audio, illuminating the powerful affinities of musicking and gaming.

- Kiri Miller, Associate Professor of Music, Brown University, USA


Academic Reviews

Review by Hillegonda C. Rietveld in GAME: The Italian Journal of Game Studies (Jan. 2018)

Review by Justin Sextro in College Music Symposium (Jan. 2018)

Review by Jan Torge Claussen in Popular Music (Oct. 2017)

Review by Markus Spöhrer in Medienwissenschaft: Rezensionen (2017) [in German]


Table of Contents

Introduction - Taking Note of Music Games

(Michael Austin, Howard University, USA)

Part One: Preludes & Overtures
Chapter 1 - SIMON: The Prelude to Modern Music Video Games

(William M. Knoblauch, Finlandia University, USA)
Chapter 2 - Mario Paint Composer and Musical (Re)Play on YouTube

(Dana M. Plank, Case Western Reserve University, USA)
Chapter 3 - Active Interfaces and Thematic Events in The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time (1998)

(Stephanie Lind, Queen's University, Canada)
Chapter 4 - Sample, Cycle, Sync: The Music Sequencer and its Influence on Music Video Games

(Michael Austin, Howard University, USA)

Part Two: Virtuosi, Virtues, & the Virtual
Chapter 5 - Consumerism Hero: The "Selling Out" of Guitar Hero and Rock Band 

(Mario A. Dozal, University of New Mexico, USA)
Chapter 6 - Beat It! Playing the "King of Pop" in Video Games

(Melanie Fritsch, University of Bayreuth, Germany) 
Chapter 7 - Virtual Jam: A Critical Analysis of Virtual Music Game Environments

(David Arditi, University of Texas at Arlington, USA)

Part Three: Concerts, Collaboration, & Creativity
Chapter 8 - Guitar Heroes in the Classroom: The Creative Potential of Music-Games

(David Roesner, University of Kent, UK, Anna Paisley, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK,

and Gianna Cassidy, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK)
Chapter 9 - Rocksmith and the Shaping of Player Experience

(Daniel O'Meara, Princeton University, USA
Chapter 10 - Rhythm Sense: Modality and Enactive Perception in Rhythm Heaven 

(Peter Shultz, University of Chicago, USA)
Chapter 11 - Pitching the Rhythm: Music Games for iPad

(Nathan Fleshner, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA)

Afterword - Toadofsky's Music Lessons

(William Cheng, Dartmouth College, USA)

Glossary of Gaming and Musical Terms
About the Contributors
Author Index

Game Index

General Index

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