Mark Sweeney, Hertford College

The Aesthetics of Videogame Music

My research is concerned with the aesthetics of videogame music, and more broadly, with certain parallels between videogame aesthetics and musical aesthetics. One of the ideas I’m exploring in my thesis is the importance of the player’s active engagement–in Kantian terms, this could be described as the ‘free play’ of their imagination. I am interested in this concept of ‘play’ both in terms of aesthetics (an active engagement with form/aesthetics) and hermeneutics (an active engagement with meaning/narrative). The ways in which these elements complement and antagonise one and other are a central concern of mine.

Along with Dr Tim Summers (St Catherine’s College) and Michiel Kamp (Cambridge University), I am a co-founder of the Ludomusicology Research Group. (founded, August 2011) is the website for a UK-based research group taking a musicological approach to videogame music, drawing together researchers from Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol Universities.

Our slant, which we feel distinguishes us from other related inter-disciplinary/multimedia projects, is the musicological approach to videogame music, as opposed to the non-performative visual arts, or non-interactive film, for example.  This also sets our project apart from the related ‘game sound’ groups, which are generally more industry based, and where they do cross over with musicology, often lean toward a consideration of sound in general, instead of music.  Our aim is to promote inter-university academic collaboration, establish game music as a research strength for UK academic musicology, act as a hub or point-of-contact to advertise the research of the group members (and of other academics working in the field) and serve as a general attempt to create a coherent direction and body of knowledge for this sub-discipline.

To achieve these aims, we organize annual international conferences on videogame music (Oxford 2012, Liverpool 2013, Chichester 2014), provide an up-to-date bibliography on our website, and host regular blog articles by guest contributors about videogames and videogame music. We are also in the process of collating a number of publications (to be announced in 2014).