The music of microswitches: preserving videogame sound — a proposal

Newman, J (2018) 'The music of microswitches: preserving videogame sound — a proposal.' The Computer Games Journal, 7. pp. 261-278. ISSN 2052-773X

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Game preservation has risen the research agenda in recent years. However, comparatively little work has been conducted on game sound. This paper seeks to redress this by proposing four conceptual and methodological principles upon which to build a robust approach to game sound archiving. The paper begins by assessing the state of current approaches to game (sound) preservation. Crucially, in addition to drawing attention to the fragile nature of fan-driven cataloging and the highly variable nature of emulated sound reproduction, the paper challenges some of the taken for granted assumptions about the purpose and scope of game (sound) preservation from which extant work proceeds. Key to the argument presented here is a (re)conceptualisation of the relationship between music, sound and play as indissolubly intertwined rather than disintegrated elements. As such, the archive proposed here does not comprise a collection of extracted and abstracted sound files; nor is the practice of game sound preservation focused on capturing the raw output of systems and sound chips. Rather, this paper argues that the project should encompass the sounds 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. Perhaps counterintuitive, this paper argues that the sounds of the machine, the click of the jump button, the movement of the joystick—the music of microswitches—serve to reveal the presence of the human player. In considering the requirement for careful metadata collection, the paper highlights the often-illusory stability of gaming 'platforms'. In doing so, the argument shifts beyond game sound archiving to present a challenge that cuts to the very heart of the discipline of game studies by questioning the stability of its objects of study.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: videogame preservation, archiving, sound, music, ludomusicology
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Bath School of Design
UoA: Cultural, Communication Studies & Media
Identification Number:
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2018 12:00
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2023 19:16
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