Most avid video gamers would recognize the tune from “Super Mario Bros.,” the theme from “The Legend of Zelda” or the orchestration from “Final Fantasy.”
For assistant professor of musicology William Gibbons, however, video game music is far more than just background noise—it is an academic venture.
Gibbons is a co-editor of the book “Music in Video Games: Studying Play,” which is set for release in February of next year, and will also teach a class on video game music during the 2014 fall semester.
“I’d like for us to be able to critically analyze what we’re consuming in games,” Gibbons said. “And it really changes our experience, I think, for the better, when we can think more analytically about what we’re experiencing and why we feel the way we do and how it affect us.”
Gibbons said he is also working on another book that will explore the relationship between video games and classical music.
Video games can be educational if studied the right way, he said.
“[Video games] can really teach us a lot about culture and a lot about how games are constructed in surprisingly intelligent, thoughtful ways,” he said.
While there is no current class focusing solely on video game music, Gibbons said he incorporates video game music into his film music class, which is open to all majors.
Gibbons said he will offer an upper-level music course on video game music during the fall 2014 semester.
Ian McKelvy, a sophomore journalism major, said music plays an important role in video games.
“If there’s no sound, then it gets a little boring,” he said.
He said he thought a class about video game music would be interesting.
Gibbons said he had long been a fan of video games, but it was not until graduate school that he began to consider video game music from an academic standpoint.
After spending long hours in the library working on his graduate dissertation about French opera culture, Gibbons said he would retreat home to relax and play video games.
“Eventually, I started thinking more and more about the music in the games, which I’d always been noticing but sort of hadn’t been thinking about academically,” Gibbons said. “I realized that no one was talking about this, and it was really important, so gradually I started thinking, ‘Maybe this is something I should get into. Maybe I’ll write something about that.’”
Gibbons said music selections from “The Legend of Zelda,” “BioShock” and “Final Fantasy” are among his personal favorites. Lately, he said he has been enjoying Austin Wintory’s music from the 2012 game “Journey.”
“It’s been on my phone on repeat pretty much for a while now,” Gibbons said.