Opinions and Culture

Video Games: Brain Gain or Drain?

Jayne Gackenbach Ph.D.

VideoGames: Brain Gain or Drain? – Music and Video Games

Dr. William Gibbons, Assistant Professor of Musicology at Texas Christian University, chats with me about the role of music in video games. He comes from a classical music background to inform his work in the music associated with gaming. Dr. Gibbons primary research interests are opera studies and musical nationalism as well as music in video games. He has published on these topics in various professional journals and is currently co-editing a book which is a collection of essays on music in video games. In our conversation we discussed not only the shot in the arm that games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band gave the music industry but also the seriousness of the music expression in video games. You’ll learn how at times music can detract while at other times, like in film, it helps to set a tone for the emotional landscape of the game. This music scholar then explains about his research on how the science-fiction world of the video game Bioshock presents a dystopian vision of mid-century America. You’ll find out that though the game features an award-winning original score, its soundtrack also borrows extensively from the older popular music. Dr. Gibbons explains how on one level, this borrowed music signifies the time period evoked by the game, grounding the action in the mid-century despite the presence of futuristic technology. He points out that this creates a dichotomy between the music’s optimism and the grim environment of Bioshock. We also chat about the various video game music concerts and their effects on music appreciation for gamers like Video Games Live.