Sonic medievalism, world building, and cultural identity in fantasy video games

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Abstract

It perhaps goes without saying that fantasy is deeply rooted in medievalism, in both aesthetic and origin. As Selling has noted, “out of all the imaginary landscapes one could place a fantasy in, a consistent choice of setting is one resembling a simplified version of the Western European Middle Ages […] where the characters wear medieval dress, fight with swords, and live in hierarchical vaguely feudal, semi-pastoral societies with low levels of technology.” Certainly, geographically and architecturally, fantasy often takes place in locations that are clear stand-ins for the western Middle Ages. They are also, by and large, populated by characters from the Middle Ages: kings, queens, knights, and peasants. Indeed, entire social structures, such as hereditary monarch of the feudal system are borrowed from the period. The familiarity and coherence of medieval Europe, as Attebery notes, removes the need for new worlds to be created a fresh.

Alongside the more mundane and historically-situated characters and places often stand magical figures and monsters, most themselves drawn from the folios of medieval bestiaries or the genre of the medieval romance. Indeed, perhaps the closest analogies to modern fantasy would be the histories of medieval scholars such as Geoffrey of Monmouth which tended to merge historical events and figures with a cast of mythical creatures and legendary people. Viewed through this lens, we could see modern fantasy as a way of retelling medieval history through the lens of a medieval world-view, through which frame the fantastical becomes mundane.

Whilst the role of medievalism within fantasy has been well rehearsed, less has been said regarding the role of music within this. This paper will therefore focus on the role of musical medievalism within fantasy video games, suggesting that music — indeed sonic design more generally — is central to the creation and maintenance of these interactive fantasy worlds.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Medievalism XXIX
Subtitle of host publicationPolitics and Medievalism (Studies)
EditorsKarl Fugelso
PublisherBoydell and Brewer
ISBN (Print)9781843845560
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2020

Publication series

NameStudies in Medievalism
PublisherD.S. Brewer
Volume29
ISSN (Print)0738-7164

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