On the Daily: Video Game Music Conference takes Ann Arbor

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 - 8:31pm

The University of Michigan is not playing around — on Jan. 13 and 14, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance will host for the first time the North American Conference on Video Game Music for its fifth annual gathering. The conference will feature discussions on the different aspects of video game music, such as composition and music theory, and seeks to bring together scholars who specialize in these topics.

The first annual conference was hosted at Youngstown State University in 2014 and the conference is now levelling up to the University of Michigan. The 2014 conference was the first conference to address video game music relative to academia. William Gibbons, a conference organizer at the event, spoke of the influence such a topic can have within the scholarly world, especially considering the rising popularity of video game music studies.

“I think it’s an extremely important event that’s happening at a great time for game studies. Video games as an academic pursuit have been increasingly popular and increasingly relevant to scholars, and game music studies are starting to catch up to that. I think it has the potential to be a really important event for the field,” Gibbons said.

Music, Theatre & Dance assistant professor Matthew Thompson, who teaches a minicourse at the University on video game music and doubles as a classical pianist, is the lead organizer of this year’s event. He stated the impact of video game music extends beyond technology and gaming as it also utilizes the work of traditional orchestras across the world.  

“The number one reason that video game music exists is to increase immersion,” Thompson said. “Early on, the programmers were the same people who composed. Game audio has progressed so much since then, that now there are huge music budgets for these AAA games that are recorded by the top orchestras in the world and highly interactive, complex musical scores.”

The program committee also includes professors from the University of Hartford, University of Texas at Austin, Davidson College, Ithaca College, Ohio State University and Youngstown State University. The conference will offer eight sessions, each highlighting a different theme and bringing forward a variety of presenters.