Compositional Devices and Techniques of 8-bit Video Game

by Robert Sanchez
Texas State University
Texas State University
Joint Conference of the AMS-Southwest Chapter & SEM-Southern Plains Chapter Spring 2014
The University of Texas at Austin

Poster Abstract

In recent years, video game music has become the focus of scholarly research. The purpose of this poster is to present the boundaries and techniques that the composers were limited to during the 8-bit era (1984-1990). Due to the rise of popular demand for video games in the 1980s, video game companies began to increase the quality in all aspects, such as graphics, gameplay, and music. This was the first time video game music was composed by actual composers, rather than by programmers. The use of different soundwaves (square, triangle, sawtooth, etc.), gameplay variables (tempo, pitch, timbre, etc.), looping, and/or algorithmic composition are just some examples that define 8-bit music. Even now, certain video games are being created in the ‘style’ of 8-bit, which includes the style of music. Although the technological limitations are no longer as they existed in the 1980s, the compositional devices and techniques are still being applied today. Since research on 8-bit video game music has only been conducted sparsely (Collins 2007, Ahlers 2009, Márquez 2012), this presentation will provide further details of compositional devices and techniques of 8-bit video game music in the context of well-known games and composers such as Super Mario Brothers & The Legend of Zelda (Koji Kondo), Mega Man (Manami Matsumae), and others.

Sanchez Poster

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