1st Edition

Music and Sonic Environments in Video Games Listening to and Performing Ludic Soundscapes

Edited By Kate Galloway, Elizabeth Hambleton Copyright 2025
    286 Pages 57 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Music and Sonic Environments in Video Games brings together a range of perspectives that explore how music and sound in video games interact with virtual and real environments, often in innovative and unexpected ways. Drawing on a range of game case studies and disciplinary perspectives, the contributors consider the sonic environment in games as its own storytelling medium. Highlighting how dynamic video game soundscapes respond to players’ movements, engage them in collaborative composition, and actively contribute to worldbuilding, the chapters discuss topics including genre conventions around soundscape design, how sonic environments shape players’ perceptions, how game sound and music model ecological processes and nonhuman relationships, and issues of cultural and geographic representation.

    Together, the essays in this volume bring game music and sound into the environmental humanities and transform our understanding of sonic environments as an essential part of storytelling in interactive media. Engaging a wide variety of game genres and communities of play, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of music, media studies, critical game studies, popular culture, and sound studies.

    List of Figures, Tables, and Musical Examples

    Series Foreword


    Prologue: Listening to, Performing, and Playing Game Soundscapes

    Kate Galloway and Elizabeth Hambleton


    Part 1

    Worldbuilding and Representing Soundscapes


    Chapter 1: Soundscape, Narrative, and Gameplay in the Assassin’s Creed Series

    Stephanie Lind


    Chapter 2: The Sonic Environments of Medieval(ist) Games

    Karen M. Cook


    Chapter 3: Quiet and Lonely but Proud: Narrative Sound Design and Composition in the Banner Saga Trilogy

    Eric Segerstrom


    Chapter 4: Radiation Acoustics and the Nuclear Soundscape in the Fallout Franchise

    Reba A. Wissner


    Part 2

    Sonic Environments, Performance, and Analytic Play


    Chapter 5: Currencies and Values of Game Sounds

    Peter Smucker


    Chapter 6: Virtuosic Play in Super Mario Maker 2

    William Ayers


    Chapter 7: Sound Affects and Musical Disorientations in Exploration Horror Video Games

    Sara Bowden


    Part 3

    Meaning, Sound, and Place


    Chapter 8: Strutting with Streets of Rage: When Dance Music Enters the Fight

    Hillegonda Rietveld and Andrew Lemon


    Chapter 9: I MUST BE BEAUTIFUL!”: Becoming Human Through Adaptive Vocal Soundscapes

    Jennifer Smith


    Chapter 10: Racialized Fantasy: Authenticity, Appropriation and Stereotype in Super Mario Odyssey

    Thomas Yee


    Chapter 11: Music in/as the Time-Space Continuum in The Outer Wilds

    Elizabeth Hambleton


    Part 4

    Acoustic Ecologies of Games


    Chapter 12: Ecological Precarity and Techno-Utopianism in the Soundscapes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

    Jordan Carmalt Stokes


    Chapter 13: Sounds of Extraction and Collection and Listening to the Pixelated Resources of Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons

    Kate Galloway


    Chapter 14: Sound, Semiosis, and the Selenitic Age of Myst

    Stephen Armstrong


    Chapter 15: Atmosphere as a Concept in Video Game Music Discourse

    Michiel Kamp


    Notes on Contributors



    Kate Galloway is Assistant Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her research addresses how and why contemporary artists remix and recycle sounds, music, and texts encoded with environmental knowledge and the creative and social phenomena of internet music communities and practices of listening to the internet. With Paula Harper and Christa Bentley, she co-edited the collection Taylor Swift: The Star, The Songs, The Fans.

    Elizabeth Hambleton, Ph.D., is an instructor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the Interactive Media and Game Development program where she teaches audio for video games. Her research in video games focuses on virtual world soundscapes and sound design.