In advance of the annual North American Conference on Video Game Music Jan. 16-17, Davidson Music Prof. and lead organizer for the conference Neil Lerner participated in a discussion about video game music on WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Lerner is a music historian and has published widely on the topic of music in film and that in video games. Recently he coedited Music in Video Games: Studying Play (Routledge, 2014).
Video games began to catch on in the 1970s and 80s, yet "even something that close to us [historically] is remarkably obscure," Lerner says. Video game music builds on the traditions of film music, he explains, but the nature of video games presents unique challenges when studying music from a historical standpoint. For example, often in early examples of game music there are no credits, which makes it hard for a historian to trace their origins.
Additionally, because video game scores change as the game players make certain decisions, studying the music requires that you think of the music almost as an algorithm, Lerner says.