The music of microswitches: archiving videogame sound

Newman, J (2018) The music of microswitches: archiving videogame sound. In: Ludomusicology 2018, 13 - 15 April 2018, Zentrum für Musikwissenschaft, Leipzig, Germany.

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Game preservation has risen the research agenda in recent years (e.g. Lowood 2009; Guttenbruner et al 2010; McDonough et al 2011) with much emphasis centring on emulation and the original experience (Serbicki 2016; Swalwell 2017) and the importance of documentation (Lowood 2013; Newman 2012). However, comparatively little work has been conducted on the theory and practice of game sound archiving (though note the commentary in McDonough et al 2010 on the limitations of videogame sound emulation). This paper reports on one recently-founded project that seeks to tackle this issue. The National Videogame Foundation ‘Game Sound Archive’ (GSA) operates in partnership with The British Library and centres on the creation and curation of archival-quality recordings of the distinctive sounds of digital games and gameplay. Importantly, the GSA is not a collection of abstracted music files or sound effects and does not focus only on capturing the raw output of hardware systems and sound chips. Rather, the scope of the project extends to actuality recordings of games being played. This decision has two immediate consequences. In the first instance, it means that the recordings account for the totality of game audio emanating from systems and games at play. As such, music and effects intermingle, sometimes complementing one another and sometimes competing for sonic space depending on the design of the audio engine. However, more than this, the interest in documenting the actuality of gameplay brings the sounds of player interactions and the operation of the physical interface within the scope of the project. Giving examples of some of the recordings, the paper explores the rationale and development of the GSA in the context of extant formal and informal game preservation projects and (game) sound collections such as the HVSC (High Voltage SID Collection) and VGMRips. The paper continues by considering the implications of these various projects’ approaches, the (patchy) state of current game sound emulation and its role in preservation, and use-cases for archival recordings of game sound and actuality recordings such as those in the GSA. The paper concludes with an outline of the curatorial development plan for the GSA and an invitation to collaborate in the recording process.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Bath School of Design
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2018 11:22
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2023 19:16
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