Video games open portals to fantastical worlds where imaginative play and enchantment prevail. These virtual settings afford us considerable freedom to act out with relative impunity. Or do they? Sound Play explores the aesthetic, ethical, and sociopolitical stakes of people's creative engagements with gaming's audio phenomena-from sonorous violence to synthesized operas, from democratic music-making to vocal sexual harassment. William Cheng shows how video games empower their designers, composers, players, critics, and scholars to tinker (often transgressively) with practices and discourses of music, noise, speech, and silence. Faced with collisions between utopian and alarmist stereotypes of video games, Sound Play synthesizes insights across musicology, sociology, anthropology, communications, literary theory, philosophy, and additional disciplines. With case studies spanning Final Fantasy VI, Silent Hill, Fallout 3, The Lord of the Rings Online, and Team Fortress 2, this book insists that what we do in there-in the safe, sound spaces of games-can ultimately teach us a great deal about who we are and what we value (musically, culturally, humanly) out here.
Foreword by Richard Leppert Video Games Live cover image printed with permission from Tommy Tallarico
William Cheng (Postdoctoral fellow Harvard University)
Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication:
Series: Oxford Music/Media Series
29 May 2014
Professional and scholarly
Foreword by Richard Leppert Introduction Chapter 1: A Tune at the End of the World Chapter 2: How Celes Sang Chapter 3: Dead Ringers Chapter 4: Role-Playing toward a Virtual Musical Democracy Chapter 5: The Wizard, the Troll, and the Fortress Epilogue End Notes Works Cited Index
William Cheng is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Reviews for Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination
As addictive and energetically conceived as its subject matter, Sound Play enables even non-gamers to navigate the sonic waves and kinetic pleasures of story worlds that challenge us to rethink the complexities of human agency, identity politics, and embodied performance. --Maria Tatar, author of Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood and editor of The Annotated Brothers Grimm A major contribution from a bold and brilliant new voice with exceptional interdisciplinary range. Cheng is a serious player: his virtuosic flair is fully matched by his technical rigor and depth of interpretive insight. Sound Play confirms that the New Musicology is truly out of beta. --Kiri Miller, author of Playing Along: Digital Games, YouTube, and Virtual Performance Compelling from the first page, Sound Play is an engaging and sophisticated study of how audio-whether in the form of music, voices, noises, or effects-crucially shapes our experience of video games, and how gaming deeply informs our engagement with sound. But more than that, William Cheng's excellent new book demonstrates how the interrelation of sound and play in video games challenges us to think deeply about what it means to live in a world in which the virtual and the real are increasingly intertwined. --Mark Katz, author of Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music andGroove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ Captivating and inspired, probing and nimbly persuasive, playful yet bursting with profound insight, Sound Play is virtually and absolutely indispensable. --Charles Hiroshi Garrett, author of Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century and editor-in-chief of The GroveDictionary of American Music, 2nd edition