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The Evolution of Video Game Music (Online)

Course Times & Enrolment

(Code MU195-201) • (0 classes) Course location to be confirmed •
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Course Summary

This course is designed for anyone interested in game design, music, popular culture and multimedia. It provides an introduction to video game music, the platforms which define it and the transition from 8-bit sound to full symphonic scores. Students will engage with the histories of technology, musicology and cultural studies to track the growth of video game music from Pong to Pac-Man; from Mario to Undertale; from Final Fantasy to Halo.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Students will need to be able to confidently use Zoom videoconferencing software and be comfortable with accessing various websites.

While no technical knowledge of music is necessary to join this course, some musical terminology will be used as the course progresses. Students may wish to familiarise themselves with aspects of music theory up to and including ABRSM Grade 5 equivalent.

Special Information

Sessions will be hosted on Zoom videoconferencing software. Students will be expected to download this software to access these sessions.

Content of Course

This course will track the history of video game music from 1972 to the present day. Sessions will guide students through landmark moments in video game and technological history that mark potential moments for change and development, including the innovation of chiptunes, themed music (such as in the Mario and Zelda series), the use of licensed music, sounds and media (as in the Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row series) and the intersection of music participation and gaming (rhythm games such as Guitar Hero and Trombone Champ). Broader ideas will also be discussed including how music is used in television, cinema, and mass media the economics of the gaming industry and trends in marketing and promotion; and the player's role as the arbiter of content they experience drawing upon theories of ludomusicology.

Students will be encouraged to listen individually outside of class but also engage in group discussions to develop their ability to reflect and enhance their communication and critical analysis skills.

Teaching method(s)

This course involves participation in teaching sessions facilitated by one of the Centre’s Music specialists. Participants will be expected to discuss their impressions of the music studied and encouraged to make comparisons with wider shifts in industry, technology and mass media.

Participation will provide students with practical skills in research, critical listening and thinking and group discussion in which they can demonstrate their aptitude and understanding of course materials. Additionally, students will be referred to a wide variety of video games from varied backgrounds, countries, and creators to enable a broad range of voices and experiences to be understood as part of the cultural history of video gaming. Verbal feedback will be provided throughout sessions.

Some games will be shown via demonstrations of software and students can watch-along to games through streaming platforms such as YouTube, Twitch and similar VOD sites between classes.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and contrast historical styles and trends in video gaming music from its creation to the present day.
  2. Critically evaluate video game music media in the context of its hardware, its musical characteristics and technological limitations where applicable.
  3. Identify and discuss confidently the wider cultural contexts that surround the development of video game music by referring to secondary literature.


Core Readings

Recommended Reading List:

  • Fritsch M. and Summers T. (2021) The Cambridge Companion to Video Game Music Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. While the course uses elements of this book to inform our studies, students are not required or expected to purchase this book.

Additional relevant articles/videos/criticism will be made available to students as the course progresses. Students will also be encouraged to listen to relevant video game soundtracks online.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.