Press Start: Narrative Integration in 16-bit Video Game Music
Ever since Pong graced the screens of video arcades, one of the most influential interactions between technology and sound has been the video game console. Over the past decade, scholars have begun to recognize this interaction with the steady growth of scholarship on video game sound; however, one group of games, that of the 16-bit generation, has been overlooked. The 16-bit era, roughly spanning from 1988 to 1996, was a period of transition and innovation for the medium. The purpose of this research is to identify the elements of narrative integration of 16-bit video game music. To explore these elements, several games from the 16-bit era are examined. The first chapters discuss the common elements of narrative integration, including musical cohesion, identification, mood evocation, and musical codes. The last half of this research is devoted to in-depth discussion of five games; first, the story-driven genre, the Role Playing Game, is represented by Chrono Trigger and Earthbound. The final chapter gives context to the 16-bit era by looking at three games from The Legend of Zelda series. Narrative integration is discovered to be an evolutionary step in 16-bit video game music. Games of this era were more capable than previous generations of including cohesive musical ideas and identification of areas and characters. Composers used the improved technology of 16-bit systems to create pervasive moods which affected players’ experiences. Finally, musical codes from both film and video games of previous generations were iterated and improved upon. The way in which 16-bit games respond to and utilize elements of narrative integration had implications for the future of game music. Many current trends of contemporary video game music can trace their origins back to the 16-bit era.
Table of Contents
Press start to begin -- Sound and story -- The Pan is mightier than the sword -- A link between video game worlds -- Epilogue