This past school year, UM Libraries debuted its new game video game collection. This collection was the collaborative work of members from the UM Libraries, The School of Music and School of Communication. When it came time to select the titles for the collection, the library relied heavily on the work of Robert “Bobby” Green, a Long Island, NY resident, graduate music student, and aspiring video game music composer.
Early on, Bobby created a list of essential video games that the library should purchase. Others in the group added to the list, but Bobby’s recommendations were thorough enough that the current collection is nearly half based on his picks and half based on donations. Bobby may have graduated this semester, but he’s left his mark at the University and as the library acquires different video game consoles, we will continue to make purchases from his initial list.
We sat down with Bobby to talk about his work with the video game collection in the following Question & Answer session.
What interested you in working with the UM Libraries to build this collection?
When I first came to UM in August 2015, I wanted to work in the University’s library system. I have a long-held appreciation for libraries as an institution that provides people with access to information and culture. Before coming to UM, I had noticed that most libraries held works from creative mediums in some form or another. Literature, music, visual arts, and motion pictures were all represented. The most glaring omission, from my perspective, was video games. Video games, while being a very new creative medium, have matured to the point where I believe they belong in libraries, especially in academic institutions such as this one where many students may go on to work in the growing video game industry. Shortly after starting my work as a graduate assistant in the libraries, I was given the opportunity to help start a video game collection, and I was eager to help due to my lifelong passion for video games and other creative mediums.
How did you choose the video games you recommended for the library?
Because this is a university library collection, the collection needed to be curated based on attributes of academic merit. For that reason, I chose games based on their cultural significance, their influence on video games as a creative medium, and the presence of “artistic” aspects which could warrant serious academic inquiry. With that set of criteria in mind, I started with games I was immediately familiar with, and then grew my list by talking to gamers and reading “best game” lists, reviews, and game award lists. I made sure to carefully research each game and sorted them into “tiers” based on how well they matched the established criteria.
How would you describe the role of music in video games?
The most important role of music, not just in video games but any visual medium, is to communicate emotion. Music tells a viewer or player how they’re supposed to feel about what’s happening, ideally in a way that is unobtrusive. It can create feelings of suspense, excitement, and triumph, and can emphasize emotions such as sadness, anger, and joy in the context of the game’s narrative (provided there is one). Game music differs from scores for other forms of visual media not so much in the role it plays, but more in how it fills this role. Where other forms of visual media are generally linear, with a consistent timeline to be scored, video games are a uniquely non-linear medium. The timing of events varies heavily based on the player’s actions, and so instead of scoring action, game music must create a general mood which serves as a backdrop for the gameplay. With the advent of adaptive music tools, musical elements can be triggered by gameplay events, which adds an extra dimension to the role of music in games; however, these elements must still be flexible rather than specific the way scoring is for other visual media.
What’s your favorite thing about gaming?
My favorite aspect of video games as a creative medium would have to be immersion. In other mediums, the consumer is generally restricted to the role of a passive observer; you listen to music, you watch a film, you read a book. All of these activities can be deeply immersive, but I think being given a controller and becoming a participant, rather than just an observer, adds an extra layer of immersion. Although I enjoy a variety of games, I have always been particularly fond of story-driven video games and have found getting to be part of a game’s story to be particularly engaging.
Where do you see the video game industry in the future?
The video game industry is currently growing, and I believe that it will continue to do so as the technology is improved upon and innovated. Virtual reality will undoubtedly be important, though the technology has a long way to go before becoming the standard. There has been an increasing trend towards “cinematic” style games which blur the line between film and video games, and I believe that that line will be blurred a great deal more in the future.
The video game collection is located in the Digital Media Lab, First floor Richter Library. Check out our video game website for a list of games and policies.
If you are interested in contacting Robert Green, please visit his LinkedIn Page.