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date: 24 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. This chapter investigates the digital games Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and DJ Hero, all of which aim to integrate kinesthetic engagement with audiovisual experience. Game designers have long understood that mutually reinforcing audio and visual stimuli set the stage for immersive gameplay. These music-oriented games go a step further by making physical engagement with the game controller meaningful and viscerally persuasive: whereas most games draw players into the on-screen gameworld, allowing them to master and forget the controller in their hands, these games draw attention to the controller as instrument and the living room as performance space. Through a comparative analysis of game reception, this essay shows how compelling gameplay experiences rely on prior musical and cultural knowledge.

Keywords: digital game, performance, immersion, music, video game, instrument, guitar, DJ, virtual, ethnomusicology

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