This article presents practice-based research exploring the interplay of real-time music creation and competitive gameplay. Musically creative video games, apps, and sound art are first surveyed to highlight their characteristic avoidance of competitive game elements. The relationship between play, games, and musical activity is then examined with reference to theoretical perspectives from ludomusicology and game studies, revealing a series of mechanical and aesthetic design tensions emerging between competitive gameplay and music creation. Two original music games are presented to explore this interplay across contrasting design approaches: EvoMusic engenders an abstract competitive dialogue between the player and system for authorial control, while Idea presents a more explicit ludic framework with goals, progression, danger, and victory. The games are evaluated in a comparative user study to capture the player experience of composing within competitive game settings.

Participant responses revealed conflicting expectations for ludic and compositional experiences. Idea was the preferred game, yet its strong ludic elements distracted from or disincentivized music creation; EvoMusic offered more focused music creation yet also a weaker gameplay experience for lacking these same competitive elements. This relationship reflects the theoretical design tensions suggested by ludomusical scholarship. Further, a majority of participants characterized EvoMusic as being simultaneously competitive and creatively stimulating. The implication is that competitive games can support music creation for certain players, though it remains challenging to satisfy expectations for both within any one system. Design recommendations are drawn from these insights, and the potential for future research into creative music games is discussed.

Digital games hold a great potential to support real-time music creation. By abstracting musical processes behind simple gameplay interactions, they empower novice users to create, manipulate, and arrange sonic content in participatory acts of composition and improvisation. This category of media, which includes titles such as Mario Paint (Nintendo, 1992), Electroplankton (Iwai, 2005), and Chiptune Runner (Evil Indie Games, 2013), has been variably described by ludomusicologists as “creative,” “making,” or “sandbox” music video games.1 Most of these designs eschew canonically competitive game elements such as winning, scoring, fixed objectives, or combat. On one hand, this has long complicated their ontological status as “games,” prompting alternative labels such as musical “apps” or “sound toys.”2 Less explored, however, are the theoretical foundations and implications of this pervasive design trend. In particular, recent ludological examinations of music video games have implicitly characterized competitive gameplay as being mechanically and aesthetically incongruous with music creation.3 This article inquires into the latent tensions between ludic design and music creation, beginning with a brief history of game-based music making.

Before proceeding, it should be acknowledged that the musical games discussed herein are multifaceted artifacts open to diverse inquiry. They invite a unique form of musical participation that deconstructs established roles of composing, improvising, and performing, melding aspects of each with ludic interaction in what might be described as a gamified “composition-instrument.”4 The musical outputs of such systems are also subject to multiple authorial forces, including the game designer, the player, and the system itself.5 To constrain this broad scope, this article focuses predominantly on the player experience of “interactive composition”: the process where players, in constant dialogue with the game system, make real-time decisions with the intention of authoring or influencing new musical content. These musical decisions might resemble extemporaneous acts of improvised creation, more preemptive musical prescriptions, or any blend thereof, with outcomes either surprising or predictable to players—so long as they occur during, and by means of, live gameplay. It is in this sense of real-time interaction that terminology such as composition, music creation, or music-making are employed herein.

The use of game structures to generate and organize musical content long precedes digital computation, with precedents apparent in Danckerts’s sixteenth-century chessboard canon, the eighteenth-century tradition of “musical dice games,” and the twentieth-century “game pieces” of Iannis Xenakis and John Zorn.6 It is with the advent of digital games, however, that playful participation in music creation became commercially accessible to single, novice users. A salient origin can be found in Otocky (Iwai, 1987), a musical side-scrolling shooter designed by media artist Toshio Iwai for Nintendo’s Famicom Disk System. The player can fire projectiles in eight directions to generate harmonically constrained and rhythmically quantized melodic tones. This simple mapping affords a small measure of musically creative play, yet shooting also has a distinctly ludic purpose: to defeat incoming enemies and win the level. Curiously, then, Otocky stands as both the first and one of scarce few single-player games to situate playful music making within a traditionally competitive game framework.

Mario Paint emerged soon after, which alongside a rudimentary painting program includes a constrained musical sandbox.7 Players compose by placing graphical stickers on a musical stave: each unique sticker symbolizes a distinct timbre, and note placement is again harmonically and rhythmically constrained for the benefit of musical novices. Despite releasing on video game hardware, however, interaction with Mario Paint rather resembles that of a musical tool. Not only does it lack the ludic goal structures or aesthetic interface of conventional video games, but the conception and playback of musical content do not occur together in real time.8 The later MTV Music Generator (1999) exemplifies such design, functioning in essence as a music sequencing software for the PlayStation console.9

Contrasting these ostensible “tools” is Iwai’s SimTunes (1996), a creative step sequencer in which insects can be placed atop a grid canvas to crawl over colors and objects “painted” by the player with diverse sonic outcomes. Though similarly lacking a competitive framework, SimTunes’ use of moving agents and a playfully abstracted interface mark the beginning of a paradigmatic shift toward a new form of musical media that blurs the liminal border between “game” and “tool.” This conceptual thread persisted through wider sound art during the turn of the millennium. Prefaced by Iwai’s own Composition on the Table,10 a series of tabletop installations emerged as collaborative musical spaces for “novice players to participate in immersive musical gaming experiences.”11 These works—which include the AudioPad, reacTable*, Jam-O-Drum, and The Music Table—offered tactile, visually stimulating, and playful recontextualizations of established music-making metaphors, just as SimTunes had done for the step sequencer.12 Pertinently, with one exception in Jam-O-Drum,13 they too followed their predecessors in excluding competitive game elements.

Iwai then made a final but seminal contribution to game-based music creation with the development of Electroplankton for the handheld Nintendo DS. The game features ten modes, each an isolated system offering a discrete form of musical play within a carefully constrained sonic world. Of particular note is “Hanenbow,” wherein the player launches musical plankton at manipulable plant structures to generate cascading diatonic pitches. Like Otocky, Hanenbow’s abstraction of musical processes moves beyond the aforementioned works by employing a prototypical gameplay mechanic—aiming projectiles at targets14—as a creative control. The mode even facilitates an abstract form of ludic closure where players receive an understated visual “reward” if they can repeatedly strike the entire musical plant structure in a short time span.15 This interaction shows a nuanced implementation of competitive gameplay: precision and strategy are required to overcome a designed challenge, yet the lack of prescribed failure conditions, quantitative ratings, or other perceivably negative outcomes promotes a disarming, playful, and open-ended experience. Nonetheless, the remaining nine modes in Electroplankton avoid any such dynamic of ludic contest. This accessible, portable, and predominantly noncompetitive design approach laid the conceptual groundwork for a generation of mobile music-making “apps” to democratize music creation en masse.

As smartphones and tablets suffused media culture, a vast corpus of play-oriented, musically creative mobile software emerged. These apps are diverse in character: the generative music apps Bloom (2008) and Scape (2012) present as artful audiovisual experiences, Björk’s Biophilia (2011) is an interactive app-album for deconstructing and remixing the artist’s own materials, and Andrew Dolphin’s SpiralSet (2009) and ResOscope (2016) serve as sonically abstract “sound toys.”16 Countless more were designed simply to facilitate transient bouts of tumultuous musical play, including Balls (2009), Soundrop (2010), and Pulsate (2012). All such apps support some measure of casual participation in music making and invoke the technology, aesthetics, and interactions of video games to varying degrees. Once more, though, this rich landscape is permeated by an ethos of noncompetitive design.

Against this backdrop, the mobile game Chiptune Runner stands apart as a rare co-occurrence of musically creative and ludically competitive interaction. Over a series of two-dimensional platforming levels, the player guides an automated running avatar past a series of violent obstacles by editing nodes on a multi-instrument step sequencer (which doubles as each level’s architecture). The avatar also serves as a playhead for performing the sequencer data, allowing players to compose by editing nodes ahead of the avatar. These basic interactions are then situated within a broader competitive framework: players can lose lives, collect stars for higher scores, engage in “boss fights,” and progress to higher tiers of difficulty.17 The PC game Fract OSC (Phosfiend Systems, 2014) presents a related design: players progress through a series of ludic puzzles that double as functional modules of a polyphonic synthesizer to allow for constrained musical experimentation. In both of these games, and in Otocky’s musicalized shooting, the creation of music occurs via the same mechanism required to navigate the games’ ludic contest. These coexisting incentives promote a mechanical tension—as explored shortly—which may offer some perspective as to why music-making video games so ubiquitously eschew competitive elements.

Before continuing, it should be disambiguated that several recent interactive works have explored the intersection of competitive games with real-time music composition and improvisation. These include: 1) sonifications of existing competitive games such as chess, Scrabble, and peg solitaire;18 2) gamified multiplayer performances using distributed mobile devices, as in SoundBounce and Sound Games 1 & 2;19 and 3) expert instrumental improvisations as a control input for video games played in contest with other human players, as in Cello Fortress or game_over_1.0.0.20 Notably, all of these works require either multiple players, expert musicians, or access to a bespoke physical installation. They are not readily available to a single commercial user in the manner of Otocky, Chiptune Runner, or the other music apps surveyed prior. It is in this delimited context of single-player music-making video games that a widespread avoidance of competitive elements can be observed. The underlying conceptual tensions that may have informed this design trend are now explored.

The MDA framework deconstructs the design and analysis of games into three interrelated areas: mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics.21 Mechanics describe game components at the level of assets and algorithms, representing the actions and control mechanisms available to players. These give rise to system dynamics, the run-time behavior of several mechanics interacting with one another. Finally, from dynamics emerge the experiential aesthetics of gameplay: the emotional responses evoked in players when they interact with the game system. Through this theoretical lens, the design tensions arising between ludic competition and music creation can be organized into two broad categories: aesthetic tensions and mechanical tensions.

Aesthetic Tensions and Ludomusical Mappings

Game aesthetics capture the player experience,22 and so it is pertinent to begin with Caillois’s understanding of paidia and ludus as two opposing poles of playful activity.23 Paidia represents an unstructured or semistructured playfulness that is free, spontaneous, exploratory, improvisational, and expressive. An appropriate metaphor is the “sandbox,” which Michael Austin has used to describe games like Mario Paint and Electroplankton due to their reliance on free experimentation and player-set goals.24 In contrast, ludus embodies the willing submission to highly structured activities with explicit rules, objectives, and competitive strife, as epitomized by games like chess. Already these descriptions imply that music creation shares an affinity with paidia whereas competitive gameplay aligns with ludus, polarizing the two from the onset. It should be noted, however, that paidia and ludus do not function as a hard dichotomy; games such as Minecraft (2011) are well loved for blending elements of creativity and exploration with combat and survival.

Several expanded taxonomies of playfulness have emerged since Caillois, with perhaps the most systematic effort being the playful experience (PLEX) framework.25 Of the twenty-two experiential phenomena identified under the umbrella of “play,” four are pertinent here: discovery, expression, competition, and challenge. Competition and challenge are closely linked to ludus through their proclivity for rules and constraints, while discovery and expression are characteristic of paidia due to their less structured, open-ended nature. Table 1 outlines these relationships, providing the PLEX framework’s summary of each aesthetic experience alongside examples of how each might manifest in gameplay.

Table 1.

Description and categorization of discovery, expression, competition, and challenge as gameplay aesthetics. *Quotations are from Arrasvuori et al., “Understanding Playfulness,” 11.

PolarityAestheticDescription*Examples of Manifestation
Paidia Discovery “Finding something new or unknown” Discovering new assets or outcomes
Discovering new affordances or abilities 
Expression “Manifesting oneself creatively” Designing or constructing content
Personalizing or modifying content 
Ludus Competition “Contest with oneself or an opponent” Competing with human players
Competing with AI opponent, game environment 
Challenge “Testing abilities in a demanding task” Physical challenges, dexterity, endurance
Mental challenge, problem solving, strategy 
PolarityAestheticDescription*Examples of Manifestation
Paidia Discovery “Finding something new or unknown” Discovering new assets or outcomes
Discovering new affordances or abilities 
Expression “Manifesting oneself creatively” Designing or constructing content
Personalizing or modifying content 
Ludus Competition “Contest with oneself or an opponent” Competing with human players
Competing with AI opponent, game environment 
Challenge “Testing abilities in a demanding task” Physical challenges, dexterity, endurance
Mental challenge, problem solving, strategy 

The authors of the MDA framework juxtapose two digital game series—Quake (id Software, 1996) and The Sims (Maxis, 2000)—as polarized examples of these differing gameplay aesthetics.26 The Quake games are fast-paced, quintessentially competitive first-person shooters that engender challenge and competition. In contrast, The Sims games are highly customizable sandboxes for agent-based life simulations that engender discovery and expression. The MDA authors continue on to describe challenge as emerging from game dynamics like “time pressure” and “opponent play,” while describing expression as emerging from dynamics that encourage designing or personalizing game assets.27 Through this lens, which the PLEX framework reflects, discovery and expression are presented as the aesthetics of “creative” gameplay, while competition and challenge are framed as the aesthetics of “competitive” gameplay. Extending these relationships suggests a distinct contrast between the expected aesthetic experiences of music creation and competitive gameplay.

Ludomusical scholars have reflected this intuition when mapping forms of player interaction within music video games. To preface his typology of musical gameplay, Austin considers how paidia and ludus align with performance, improvisation, and composition. He describes ludus as the “strictly organised play of performing music by rote…or the mastery of a rhythm game…achieved by executing the requisite movements to perfection.”28 In contrast, Austin describes paidia as being “present both in improvisatory musical practices…and in playing music games that give players the freedom to create music through gameplay.”29 Anahid Kassabian and Freya Jarman mirror this characterization but instead draw on cultural perceptions of music itself as engendering both “liberatory” and “disciplinary” experiences: music is both a “path to freedom, salvation, and self-expression” and a “hardship…a demanding task master.”30 Through a review of musical media, Kassabian and Jarman use this framework to make a more explicit distinction between music “games” as disciplinary experiences and music “non-games”—apps, tools, or toys—as liberatory experiences. They describe performative games like Guitar Hero (2005) as tasks to be achieved, to be repeated until the rule structure is mastered, while suggesting that apps and toys instead foster “experimentation” and the “joyful, ecstatic, creative aspect of musical experience.”31 Arising from these ludomusical mappings are the following two characterizations: 1) performance in music games is ludic and disciplinary, aligning with aesthetics of challenge and competition; 2) creation in music games is paidic and exploratory, aligning with aesthetics of discovery and expression.

While the scholarship reviewed thus far highlights a contrast between the aesthetic expectations of music making and competitive gameplay, there are few explicit assertions that the two are strictly incompatible, or at least in direct conflict. Andrew Dolphin posits one such conception during his discussion of sound toys. He first describes sound toys as an inclusive platform for providing “access to composition through symbolic representation of often complex underlying systems” before assigning this label to media such as Electroplankton, Bloom, Biophilia, and Soundrop.32 Dolphin then asserts that such designs avoid an “intentionally competitive framework” to encourage a “playful experience” that facilitates casual, exploratory engagements.33 Kassabian and Jarman also reflect this sentiment, at least in part. After introducing apps like Balls and Bloom as exemplars of exploratory music creation through “unintimidating” interactions, they suggest that “for at least some users, one of us included, these apps provide amusement and pleasure in ways that the pressure of competition and points present in games never could.”34 This language goes beyond the tacit conceptual associations outlined prior, implying that the aesthetic experiences arising from competitive gameplay—such as “pressure”—may be undesirable in musically creative contexts.

Few would argue that competitive gameplay is itself devoid of creativity. To engage with most competitive games requires that players devise their own solutions to dynamically changing scenarios,35 while Ge Wang—a prolific designer of mobile musical apps—posits that “effective” game design encourages players to “make creative use of game rules to overcome a set of challenges.”36 It is perhaps the case, then, that the aesthetic misalignment discussed here arises specifically with acts of musical creation. While this may go some way to accounting for the dearth of competitive elements within music creation games, there are also mechanical design tensions to be addressed.

Mechanical Tensions and Ludomusical Dissonance

Single-player competitive games traditionally rely upon system-based evaluations of the player’s effectiveness within the game structure to mediate the ludic contest and assign outcomes such as winning or losing. This is no issue in the context of performative music games, which reduce musical performance to quantifiable criteria that can be easily evaluated by a digital game system. Players can score points, win or lose, and progress through escalating challenges in what is clearly conceivable as a competitive game framework. It is difficult, however, to apply these same ludic mechanics to musical composition or improvisation. How might a system fairly “score” the player’s subjective creations whilst also accounting for a diversity of musical tastes? How should the player win or lose by the merit of their creative decisions without disincentivizing the free expression and exploration that we value in creative experiences? More broadly, how might a system measure creativity when no agreeable psychological framework has emerged?37

At a mechanical level, a system-based evaluation of musical creation is not strictly inconceivable but may promote intuitively undesirable outcomes. To offer some hypothetical examples: if a game were to award points for producing chord progressions that exhibit functional harmony, this might restrict stylistic exploration and render the game as more a test of music theory knowledge than creative aptitude. If a game instead assigned competitive outcomes to less prescriptive criteria, such as creating music for a required duration or producing a certain quantity of sounds, then these mechanics might so scarcely challenge players as to lose their ludic potency and become arbitrary additions to the system. Compounding these tensions is that a player’s goal will not always be to create “good” music; enjoyable experiences of discovery and expression are equally found in subversive or experimental play. Novel solutions to these issues are sure to emerge in time, as game designers have long subverted contemporary challenges and expectations.38 For the moment, however, the current landscape of music creation games presents two ostensible solutions: 1) to abandon ludic evaluations of musical creativity outright, or 2) to renegotiate the assignment of ludic goals and outcomes as being the player’s own responsibility. The former is the approach taken by music games such as Otocky and Chiptune Runner, where music creation simply takes place alongside a more conventional competitive framework of defeating enemies and surviving levels. The latter approach has been explored by Nathan Fleshner and Samantha Blickhan,39 who respectively adapt the ludological theories of Bernard Suits and Jesper Juul40 to suggest that a player’s self-imposed musical expectations—and their success in satisfying them through gameplay—are enough to constitute the “unnecessary obstacles”41 and “quantifiable outcomes”42 upon which competitive games are predicated. In either case, a mechanical tension remains apparent simply because musical creation cannot be as easily incorporated into a competitive game framework as musical performance.

A separate mechanical tension emerges in games like Otocky and Chiptune Runner due to the interaction of two potentially conflicting player incentives: 1) creating desired music, and 2) succeeding within the ludic structure. When a game affords both music creation and competitive engagement simultaneously, it is unlikely that the optimal ludic action will always align with the preferred musical outcome, and so the player may be forced—at least momentarily—to forsake one goal for the other. Several ludomusical scholars have noted this tension, including Michael Austin, Roger Moseley, and Costantino Oliva.43 Austin’s line of questioning is particularly helpful in elucidating the issue:

How does the desire to make music affect gameplay? Does a player follow the stated or implied rules of the game at the expense of the music in order to win, or should a player sacrifice lives, time, and strategic advantages in order to produce better music?44

For designers such as Andrew Dolphin, this teleological conflict is why sound toys avoid intentionally competitive elements. He argues that eschewing “rigid rules, specific objectives…rewards, competition and scoring” ensures that the player’s interaction remains “primarily concerned with sound.”45 As Oliva notes, a similar desire to focus on the audiovisual potentials of digital games has also driven much of Iwai’s work, despite having included conventional ludic elements within Otocky.46

The implication is that the discrete incentives of competing and creating music will variably distract from or disincentivize the other activity, excepting only moments of serendipitous alignment between the two.47 This is somewhat analogous to the concept of “ludonarrative dissonance,” coined by Clint Hocking to denote a conflict between the actions incentivized by a game’s ludic and narrative structures.48 It may be useful, then, to establish a related notion of ludomusical dissonance to describe gameplay interactions that give rise to opposing ludic and musical incentives.

Through this lens, we can more comprehensively chart the design tensions arising from existing competitive music-making games. First, to effectively shoot enemies in Otocky, achieve the highest score in Chiptune Runner, or solve puzzles in Fract OSC requires that the pursuit of free music creation be momentarily ignored. This occurs because music creation is not itself the mechanism of competition in these games but rather exists alongside it; a ludomusical dissonance thus emerges from the coexistence of conflicting player incentives. To reconcile this, one might instead position musically creative decisions as the means of navigating the ludic contest, yet this seems to require devising a system-based evaluation of the player’s music creations. As discussed, any such criteria might restrict free musical exploration by prescribing particular musical outcomes as “ludically acceptable,” which in turn may still promote ludomusical dissonance by asking players to decide between producing the music desired by the game or themselves. Finally, were a designer to successfully negotiate these manifold mechanical issues, they would still need to contend with the aesthetic question of whether players desire competition within music creation experiences.

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the most popular approach to designing creation-based music games has been simply to reject competitive elements altogether. The design tensions discussed herein offer one plausible account for the scarcity of competitive music-making games, as summarized below:

  1. Musical creativity cannot be easily scored or evaluated within a competitive game framework.

  2. The presence of competitive mechanics, such as points, goals, or win-loss conditions, may distract or disincentivize musically creative interactions.

  3. The aesthetic experiences of competitive gameplay, such as challenge or pressure,49 may be undesirable within musically creative contexts.

While each of the above is intuitively plausible and at least tacitly represented within ludomusical scholarship, a critical question yet remains: are these conceptual tensions reflected in the player experience? Further, can competitive digital games support real-time music creation in a way that satisfies player expectations for both competitive gameplay and music making? If not, are there alternative conceptions of a competitive music-making game that may better approach this?

Two original music games, EvoMusic and Idea, were developed by this article’s lead author to support a practice-based investigation of the above questions. Their design is explicated here to facilitate the reporting of a comparative user study to which they were subjected. Together, the user study and original games aim to capture the player experience of composing within competitive game settings and thus offer new insights into the latent tensions between the two. EvoMusic and Idea also explore contrasting approaches to the synthesis of interactive composition and competitive gameplay, which are subsequently evaluated by the comparative user study.

Conceptually, EvoMusic and Idea are intended as compositional contests between a single player and the game system. The player and system do not produce discrete compositions to be separately evaluated but compete for creative control over a single, shared musical output unfolding in real time. This is enabled by allowing the state of the gameworld to define parameters for algorithmic music generation. A novice player can thus exert creative control by interacting with the gameworld to effect sonic change, while the game’s internal logic is designed such that the music generation moves inexorably toward a broad aesthetic outcome over the course of a game session.50 The player then strategically contests or embraces this designed musical trajectory in a persistent effort to align the generated musical output with their own aesthetic goals, which variably collide or comply with the system’s compositional gestures. In this way, the games act as both collaborator and opponent, inviting a novel dialogue between player and system that is at once musically competitive and cocreative.

From a technical standpoint, the total player experience of EvoMusic and Idea comprises separate game and music systems communicating on a single device (see Figure 1). The game system, developed in Unity (v. 2017.3.1, Unity Technologies), handles game logic and information display as the portal for player interaction. The music system, developed in Max (v. 8.0.1, Cycling ’74), is responsible for the generation and playback of musical content according to the state of the gameworld.51 Interoperability between Max and Unity is achieved through Open Sound Control and scripts from Thomas Frederick’s UnityOSC project.52

Figure 1.

Visualization of system design for EvoMusic and Idea.

Figure 1.

Visualization of system design for EvoMusic and Idea.

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EvoMusic

EvoMusic is a two-dimensional, point-and-click game inspired by the principles of mitosis and evolution. The player acts as a sonic gardener, curating the growth of an evolving population of musical “cells.” Each cell is assigned a discrete sonic event at an atomic scale—a single pitched tone, a lone percussion layer, or a short sound effect—which they intermittently produce while drifting around the game space (see Figure 2). These events are organized into a metrically constrained musical output, which the novice player influences by removing or protecting particular sounds at the discretion of their own aesthetic goals. Each cell grows over time before dividing into two new cells: one child inherits the sonic event of the parent, while the other is assigned a new event through stochastic processes. This provides the novice user with a continually renewing stock of musical events to interact with, but it also allows players to preserve any favored sonic features as a means of shaping compositional identity over the course of gameplay. Crucially, the population’s growth is inexorable, so the player must persistently contest an inherent pull toward cacophony by “pruning” excess or unwanted sonic events. There is no objective means for the player to win or lose, nor a defined “end point” for the game session. The player simply strives to attain, and then defend, a desired musical state against the system’s persistent dynamic of growing complexity for as long as they desire. A video demonstration and mechanical explanation of EvoMusic is available in Video 1.

Figure 2.

Screen capture of the interface for EvoMusic during gameplay.

Figure 2.

Screen capture of the interface for EvoMusic during gameplay.

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Video 1.

EvoMusic video demonstration.

Video 1.

EvoMusic video demonstration.

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Despite eschewing numerical scores or win-loss conditions, EvoMusic aims to engender a gameful contest with composition at its core. The competitive elements of EvoMusic do not threaten a player’s avatar or attempted high score, as seen in Otocky and Chiptune Runner, but the player’s music itself. Foremost, the player must persistently tame or encourage the music’s inexorable growth to reach a desired outcome. They must also contend with “destructive cells”—a random result of cell division—that can destroy other sonic events and so disrupt the music if left unchecked. These mechanics allow composition to remain the focus of the player’s competitive efforts without necessitating a means of evaluating their creative decisions. This approach also aims to minimize ludomusical dissonance by avoiding any extramusical ludic incentive; to ludically “succeed” within EvoMusic is simply to achieve a satisfactory compositional outcome. It should be acknowledged, however, that the very presence of a competitive dynamic precludes EvoMusic from affording wholly “free” music creation, so the potential for aesthetic tensions remains.

Idea

Idea is a three-dimensional, first-person musical maze with a more explicit focus on traditional game elements: primarily, ludic goal structures and progression. Players explore a series of labyrinthian game levels to discover new compositional resources, such as new pitches and timbres, whilst avoiding the various hostile agents attempting to steal and pervert them. Music is created by toying with “ideas,” short musical motifs embodied as physical game objects (see Figure 3) that have diverse compositional interactions with the game’s environment, agents, and one another. The player opens new pathways throughout each level by creating music with these ideas, aiming ultimately to find the “exit” and progress to the next level and its new compositional resources. Players are defeated if they lose too many musical resources to the hostiles patrolling the game level (see Figure 4), though they can also defeat hostiles by combining ideas into multilayered music. What results is a progression of compositional sandboxes that broaden in scope as the ludic incentives are addressed—that is, as enemies are defeated and new environments are unlocked. A video demonstration and mechanical explanation of Idea is available in Video 2.

Figure 3.

A pitched “idea” being held and auditioned by the player.

Figure 3.

A pitched “idea” being held and auditioned by the player.

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Figure 4.

A hostile agent capturing two ideas to draw in and consume them.

Figure 4.

A hostile agent capturing two ideas to draw in and consume them.

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Video 2.

Idea video demonstration.

Video 2.

Idea video demonstration.

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Unlike EvoMusic, Idea features a “self-sufficient” ludic framework: that is, the ludic objectives can theoretically be addressed without hearing the musical output, as is the case with Otocky and Chiptune Runner. This allows for conflicting ludic and musical incentives to emerge and thus invites the potential for ludomusical dissonance. The intent of Idea, however, is to mitigate this mechanical tension as far as possible while still retaining combat, winning, and losing as conventionally expected game elements. To this end, all controllable musical parameters in Idea are explicitly gamified, and all ludic interactions are “musified.” For instance, players have a tool-like capability to edit the melodic, rhythmic, and timbral content of ideas (see Figure 5); this interaction is gamified because the player must find the required pitch and timbre resources within the game environment (see Figure 6) and subsequently protect them from hostile agents. In turn, all ludic engagement with the hostiles is closely linked to musical outcomes and incentives. Player “health” is not an arbitrary value but a direct representation of the player’s available musical resources. Hostiles do not deplete this health simply by colliding with players but by stealing the player’s active ideas to disrupt their created music. Finally, stolen ideas are not merely deleted but are timbrally and melodically corrupted before being reinserted into the soundscape. Idea thus retains EvoMusic’s dynamic of contesting the game system for compositional control, but within a more explicit and completable ludic framework.

Figure 5.

Editable interface for pitched ideas.

Figure 5.

Editable interface for pitched ideas.

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Figure 6.

Collectible “notes” (yellow) and “timbres” (blue) within the game environment. The quantities of each currently held by the player are displayed in the top left.

Figure 6.

Collectible “notes” (yellow) and “timbres” (blue) within the game environment. The quantities of each currently held by the player are displayed in the top left.

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A comparative user study was conducted to capture player perceptions of interacting with EvoMusic and Idea. The user study had two primary aims: 1) to compare how each contrasting design approach influences the music creation experience, and 2) to explore the extent to which the aforementioned mechanical and aesthetic tensions are reflected within player perceptions. Six anonymous participants were randomly recruited from the undergraduate student cohort at the University of Newcastle, Australia, under a human ethics protocol approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee.53 The only demographics collected from participants were indications of existing musical knowledge and digital game proficiency for the purpose of contextualizing results. Three participants identified as experienced gamers and musicians; the remaining three identified as neither.

The user studies were conducted as single supervised sessions for each participant. Participants were asked to play one game for approximately twenty minutes before completing a survey reflecting on their experience; this process was then repeated for the second game with an identical set of survey questions.54 The broad aims of the research were introduced via a participant information statement, but no specific details about the games or survey questions were given to avoid influencing participant responses.55 In evaluating each game, participants first completed ten Likert-scale questions derived from the System Usability Scale (SUS), a standardized instrument for subjective assessments of system usability, which has been recommended for evaluating accessible music game systems.56 Participants then responded to eight questions concerning their perceptions and expectations of the musical and ludic experiences (see Table 2); each question entailed a numerical Likert-scale rating followed by a short written justification. Participants were next asked to indicate which features they most enjoyed, or would like to see improved, in open-ended responses. The survey concluded with a direct, free-form comparison between EvoMusic and Idea; participants were able to specify a preferred game, articulate their reasoning at length, or reflect freely on any further insights they deemed appropriate.

Table 2.

Summary of the eight hybridized survey questions and their Likert-scale responses. Each question was followed by a short written justification.

Likert Scale Responses
#ThemeQuestion12345
Balance How would you describe your level of creative control over the music in EvoMusic/IdeaGame had total control Game had most control Balance between game and me I had most control I had total control 
Control It was easy to direct the music toward a result that I desired in EvoMusic/IdeaStrongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Challenge I felt a sense of challenge while creating music in EvoMusic/IdeaStrongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Creativity I found that EvoMusic/Idea helped me to be musically creative. Strongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Competition I felt that I had to compete against EvoMusic/Idea for creative control of the music. Strongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Ownership I felt a sense of ownership over the music created during my time playing EvoMusic/IdeaStrongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Composition How would you rate EvoMusic/Idea as a music creation experience? Very poor Poor Neither good nor poor Good Very good 
Game How would you rate EvoMusic/Idea as a game? Very poor Poor Neither good nor poor Good Very good 
Likert Scale Responses
#ThemeQuestion12345
Balance How would you describe your level of creative control over the music in EvoMusic/IdeaGame had total control Game had most control Balance between game and me I had most control I had total control 
Control It was easy to direct the music toward a result that I desired in EvoMusic/IdeaStrongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Challenge I felt a sense of challenge while creating music in EvoMusic/IdeaStrongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Creativity I found that EvoMusic/Idea helped me to be musically creative. Strongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Competition I felt that I had to compete against EvoMusic/Idea for creative control of the music. Strongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Ownership I felt a sense of ownership over the music created during my time playing EvoMusic/IdeaStrongly disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly agree 
Composition How would you rate EvoMusic/Idea as a music creation experience? Very poor Poor Neither good nor poor Good Very good 
Game How would you rate EvoMusic/Idea as a game? Very poor Poor Neither good nor poor Good Very good 

The study design was informed by the “concurrent triangulation” approach to mixed methods data collection and analysis.57 Data collected from the SUS were used to produce mean scores for each game, which were then compared against a global benchmark of 70 out of 100 for “good” system usability;58 a paired-samples t-test was conducted to test for significance (p < 0.05) between EvoMusic and Idea. Likert-scale responses to the hybridized questions were numbered from 1 to 5 (see Table 2) and used to calculate a mean response; paired samples t-tests were conducted for each question to test for significance between EvoMusic and Idea regarding player perceptions of musical control, creativity, challenge, ludic expectations, and other themes. Qualitative data were categorized by participant, by question, and by conceptual theme following a general inductive approach.59 Open-ended responses were used to identify underlying player values, such as a desire for challenge in games; qualitative themes were also quantified by their frequency within participant responses to aid in this identification.60 Finally, each participant’s stated preference between EvoMusic and Idea was used to contextualize all other survey data.

It should be noted that this study was designed in anticipation of at least twenty participants, as per a previous study conducted under this research,61 but was concluded prematurely during the outbreak of COVID-19 for the safety of all involved. Due to the small sample size, the results reported herein should not be taken as broadly representing the general player experience but as an opportunity to reflect on the aforementioned design tensions using real player insights. Qualitative data should also be emphasized in any interpretation of participant perceptions.62

The study results presented unified characterizations of Idea and EvoMusic as contrasting designs. Their juxtaposition also revealed significant tensions between participants’ ludic and musical expectations. To articulate this, a brief overview is given before the results of statistical comparisons are summarized. Qualitative insights are then reported to explore how participants’ differing perceptions of Idea and EvoMusic shaped their ludic and musical experiences.

Overview and General Reception

Idea was the preferred experience overall when detached from any specific criteria. Four participants (67%) nominated Idea as their explicit preference; the remaining two (33%) asserted that their preference was dependent on whether interaction was primarily motivated by music creation (EvoMusic) or gameplay enjoyment (Idea), as illustrated below:

For gameplay and challenge it was Idea. For strict first-time use, for music control it was EvoMusic. (Participant 1)

I preferred Idea as a game to play—this is because it was much more interactive and challenging than EvoMusic, with clear goals to get people motivated. However, I preferred EvoMusic as a way to express creativity…(Participant 6)

All six participants described Idea as the superior gameplay experience, frequently attributing the presence of ludic goals, progression, combat, or challenge. Crucially, five participants (83%) also framed these elements as detracting from a compositional focus, suggesting a palpable ludomusical dissonance within Idea’s design. This relationship was inverted for EvoMusic, which was characterized as the superior music creation experience yet also as a poor “game” for lacking the same ludic elements that promoted tension within Idea. This interplay crucially reflects upon the conceptual tensions between music creation and competitive gameplay.

Summary of Statistical Comparisons

The results of paired-samples t-tests comparing Likert-scale responses to the hybridized questions (see Table 2) are summarized in Table 3 and Figure 7. Significant differences were found in the perceived level of challenge (Question 3: Table 3) and the overall game experience (Question 8: Table 3), with Idea rating higher in both cases. This characterization of Idea as the more challenging and superior game experience was uncontested throughout the qualitative responses. A paired-samples t-test comparing the SUS scores found no significant difference between EvoMusic (M=77.08, SD=13.17) and Idea (M=62.08, SD=16.54); t(5)=2.2361, p=0.0756. Notably, though, only EvoMusic attained the usability benchmark of 70. Qualitative responses supported this perception of EvoMusic as being more accessible, whereas Idea was more complex to learn and understand:

You didn’t need really any gaming or musical experience to play. (Participant 3, on EvoMusic)

The ways you could control the music with hoops and tones was a little confusing, but with practice would probably become easier. (Participant 6, on Idea)

Table 3.

Statistical comparisons between EvoMusic and Idea for Likert-scale responses to the eight hybridized questions (see Table 2).

EvoMusicIdeaPaired-samples t-test
QuestionMSDMSDNtp-value
1 (balance) 3.33 1.21 3.33 1.03 
2 (control) 2.67 1.37 2.83 1.17 0.2774 0.793 
3 (challenge) 2.17 1.17 4.00 0.63 5.9656 0.002** 
4 (creativity) 3.33 1.03 2.67 1.21 1.3484 0.235 
5 (competition) 3.67 1.03 3.33 1.63 0.3953 0.709 
6 (ownership) 2.67 1.51 2.67 1.37 
7 (composition) 3.33 1.03 3.17 0.98 0.4152 0.695 
8 (game) 2.67 0.82 4.00 0.63 3.1623 0.025* 
EvoMusicIdeaPaired-samples t-test
QuestionMSDMSDNtp-value
1 (balance) 3.33 1.21 3.33 1.03 
2 (control) 2.67 1.37 2.83 1.17 0.2774 0.793 
3 (challenge) 2.17 1.17 4.00 0.63 5.9656 0.002** 
4 (creativity) 3.33 1.03 2.67 1.21 1.3484 0.235 
5 (competition) 3.67 1.03 3.33 1.63 0.3953 0.709 
6 (ownership) 2.67 1.51 2.67 1.37 
7 (composition) 3.33 1.03 3.17 0.98 0.4152 0.695 
8 (game) 2.67 0.82 4.00 0.63 3.1623 0.025* 
Figure 7.

Comparison of mean Likert-scale scores in EvoMusic and Idea for the eight hybridized questions (see Table 2). Error bars show standard deviation; p-value is shown for significant differences found with paired-samples t-tests.

Figure 7.

Comparison of mean Likert-scale scores in EvoMusic and Idea for the eight hybridized questions (see Table 2). Error bars show standard deviation; p-value is shown for significant differences found with paired-samples t-tests.

Close modal

The statistical comparisons captured no further differences between participants’ musical or ludic perceptions of EvoMusic and Idea (see Table 3). Quantitative responses, however, revealed that these perceptions were shaped by a discrete set of values and expectations that emerged for each game.

Divergent Characterizations of EvoMusic and Idea

Five participants (83%) rated Idea as at least a “good” game, compared to only one participant (17%) for EvoMusic (see Table 4). For EvoMusic, five participants (83%) suggested that the lack of traditional ludic goals, progression, or challenge lessened its value as a game, linking this in particular to “motivation” or “interest”:

Not very challenging and no real “aim” to keep you motivated. (Participant 6)

It was visually appealing and vaguely entertaining, but overall kind of pointless. There was no way to improve or progress and any player would lose interest very easily. (Participant 3)

For Idea, participants valued the presence of challenge, rewards, or progression when justifying its rating as a “good” game:

It had challenge with its enemy system and the ability to lose the level. Also being able to collect tones and sounds is a good reward for players seeking to diversify their ideas they find. (Participant 5)

It’s interactive, challenging, and fun. (Participant 6)

Table 4.

Compared frequency distributions of Likert responses to Question 7 (see Table 2): “How would you rate EvoMusic/Idea as a game?”

Responses (n=6)Distribution (EvoMusic)% (EvoMusic)Distribution (Idea)% (Idea)
Very poor 
Poor 50 
Neither good nor poor 33.3 16.7 
Good 16.7 66.7 
Very good 16.7 
Responses (n=6)Distribution (EvoMusic)% (EvoMusic)Distribution (Idea)% (Idea)
Very poor 
Poor 50 
Neither good nor poor 33.3 16.7 
Good 16.7 66.7 
Very good 16.7 

EvoMusic’s failure to satisfy ludic expectations was also reflected in participants’ suggestions for improving each game, with five participants (83%) recommending the addition of either ludic goals or increased challenge:

Creating a more challenging version of the game with a clear aim or goal would help to get people interested in the game. (Participant 6)

There was no particular aim to the game which isn’t bad in and of itself but I felt kind of lost…Introduce some sort of challenge? (Participant 2)

An added purpose or point system. (Participant 4)

Crucially, though, the same five participants (83%) perceived these ludic elements as detracting from a musical focus within Idea, as explored shortly. In turn, the most frequent suggestion for Idea was to support a greater focus on music creation, as articulated by three participants (50%):

Make the music creation more pertinent. (Participant 3)

There wasn’t a large focus on music creation—somehow incorporate this a bit more? The focus tends to be on the game itself and passing levels. (Participant 6)

…a mechanic where you could just make music freely separate to the gameplay and be able to access all tones and save music if you wish. (Participant 5)

This convergence of design suggestions not only indicates a tension between competitive gameplay and music creation but reveals inverse perceptions of each game: Idea is a conventional game with peripheral music-making elements, while EvoMusic is a primarily musical experience that lacks strong game elements.

These divergent characterizations were further reflected by participants when justifying their preference between the games. For Idea, justifications were centered on the gameplay experience, focusing particularly on its ludic goals and greater level of challenge (see Table 5). For EvoMusic, the two participants (33%) offering potential justifications instead focused on the compositional experience, noting perceptions of higher musical control and creativity (see Table 6). These contrasting foci for Idea and EvoMusic highlight their characterizations as the stronger game and music creation experience respectively.

Table 5.

Frequency of justifications for preferring Idea in the final comparison, given by six participants. Note: some participants expressed multiple justifications.

JustificationFrequency% of Total Participants
Gameplay 66.7 
Goals 66.7 
Challenge 50 
Combat/enemies 33.3 
Musical control 33.3 
Rewards 16.7 
Graphics 16.7 
Sound quality 16.7 
JustificationFrequency% of Total Participants
Gameplay 66.7 
Goals 66.7 
Challenge 50 
Combat/enemies 33.3 
Musical control 33.3 
Rewards 16.7 
Graphics 16.7 
Sound quality 16.7 
Table 6.

Frequency of justifications for preferring EvoMusic in the final comparison, given by two participants. Note: some participants expressed multiple justifications.

JustificationFrequency% of Total Participants
Musical control 33.3 
Creativity 16.7 
Ease of learning 16.7 
JustificationFrequency% of Total Participants
Musical control 33.3 
Creativity 16.7 
Ease of learning 16.7 

Factors Influencing the Music Creation Experience

In this study, a participant’s total music creation experience was understood as comprising their perceptions of musical control, creativity, ownership, and general value as a composition experience (see Table 2: Questions 2, 4, 6, and 7). For Idea, the factor that most shaped each of these perceptions was the ludic framework, or components thereof. Regarding musical control, three participants (50%) found that the need to address multiple competitive mechanics and incentives either detracted from musical control or disincentivized efforts toward exerting it:

When the “enemy” type things were added in I was more focused on destroying them than the overall sound. (Participant 4)

I enjoyed the experience more when I stopped trying to have control over what the music sounded like. (Participant 2)

Regarding musical creativity, four participants (67%) described Idea’s ludic framework as inhibiting or superseding musically creative engagement:

I was more focused on passing the level than being musically creative. (Participant 6)

I didn’t really feel like the game was helping me compose music or be creative. It was something you could chose to do, but it didn’t really feel like the game was focused on composing. It was more of a game. (Participant 3)

Regarding perceived ownership of the musical output, four participants (67%) described music creation as “secondary” or “background” to their focus on competitive gameplay:

The game created the music as I tried to pass the level. If I wanted, I could change/edit it, but I wasn’t really focused on doing this. (Participant 6)

Too busy doing other tasks. Felt like I just had it going on in background. (Participant 1)

Finally, regarding Idea’s general perception as a composition experience, three participants (50%) again framed music creation as secondary or a “backdrop” to the competitive gameplay experience:

The main focus was on the game rather than music creation. (Participant 6)

The sounds…were a fun backdrop to the gameplay. (Participant 2)

These responses reveal a serious conflict between the incentives of Idea’s ludic and musical mechanics, the sources of which are unpacked shortly. For EvoMusic, which lacked the competitive elements causing tension in Idea, the primary factor influencing the musical experience was instead participants’ perceived level of musical control. Five participants (83%) referenced musical control as influencing their perceptions of creativity, ownership, and value as a general compositional experience, whether good or poor. An example of each is respectively given below:

To be creative I believe you need to have control over what you are doing. (Participant 3, Question 4: Table 2)

The large amount of creative control meant that I felt responsible for the music created. (Participant 6, Question 6: Table 2)

First time ever with a music game/program. Ability to change and control it was fun and positive. (Participant 1, Question 7: Table 2)

There was no quantitative or qualitative indication of a difference between the degree of musical control afforded by EvoMusic and Idea.63 Importantly, this suggests that participants’ clear focus on musical control when evaluating EvoMusic was not merely due to higher perceptions of it. Perhaps EvoMusic’s lack of competitive elements allowed participants to evaluate the compositional experience on primarily musical grounds, rather than addressing the ludic framework’s interference as with Idea. In either case, it reaffirms that EvoMusic was primarily evaluated as a music creation experience and Idea as a competitive game.

Sources of Ludomusical Dissonance in Idea

Five participants (83%) articulated a conflict between Idea’s ludic incentives and compositional experience for a total of nineteen unique mentions throughout the survey. The reported sources of this ludomusical dissonance are compared in Table 7, as categorized by total mentions and per unique participant. The most frequent explanation—given by four participants (67%)—was Idea’s general “ludic focus,” whereby music creation felt peripheral to the core gameplay experience. A range of individual competitive elements were also reported as demanding greater attention than musically creative engagement: three participants (50%) prioritized combating hostiles over shaping the musical output, two (33%) prioritized meeting Idea’s goals or victory conditions, and two (33%) prioritized the sense of challenge invoked by these competitive mechanics. These sentiments are respectively exemplified below:

When the “enemy” type things were added in I was more focused on destroying them than the overall sound. (Participant 4)

…felt like the aim of the game was to get through the levels, not create the music you may necessarily want to. (Participant 2)

…the real “challenge” felt like it wasn't necessarily the music itself but the levels. (Participant 2)

Table 7.

Frequency of justifications for ludomusical dissonance by total mentions and per unique participant. Note: some participants expressed multiple justifications per mention.

JustificationNo of Total Mentions% of Total Mentions (19)Frequency in Participants% of Total Participants (6)
Ludic focus 12 63.2 66.7 
Combat 31.6 50 
Goals/victory 26.3 33.3 
Challenge 10.5 33.3 
Aesthetic 5.3 16.7 
JustificationNo of Total Mentions% of Total Mentions (19)Frequency in Participants% of Total Participants (6)
Ludic focus 12 63.2 66.7 
Combat 31.6 50 
Goals/victory 26.3 33.3 
Challenge 10.5 33.3 
Aesthetic 5.3 16.7 

Only one participant (17%) did not allude to a ludomusical dissonance within Idea. This participant not only enjoyed the game but readily reconciled the competitive elements as a valuable addition to the musical experience:

The enemies were a good challenge that brought a sense of gameplay to this music creating game. (Participant 5)

Idea had objects, it had risk of enemies taking away some of the things you used to create music and it rewarded you with new tones, ideas, percussion and sound. It was very enjoyable, I wish I could have played longer. (Participant 5)

This suggests that some players—if only a small minority—do not experience the cohabitation of ludic and musically creative incentives as giving rise to mechanical tensions. Of greater interest, however, is that the five participants (83%) who did perceive a ludomusical dissonance never framed it as being bidirectional: that is, not once did a participant report the momentary abandonment of Idea’s ludic goals for the benefit of musical exploration.

On Competitive Dialogues and Aesthetic Tensions

EvoMusic and Idea were intended as compositional contests between the player and system, so it is pertinent to consider if participants reflected this conception. Five participants (83%) identified or alluded to the intended competitive dialogue within EvoMusic, whereby the music inexorably grows to provoke continued creative interventions by the player:

Cells dividing creating more sound and more random cells gives a sense of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of cells and the noise. I felt I needed to control the situation so it wouldn’t go further out of hand. (Participant 5)

Crucially, four of these participants (67%) also “agreed” that EvoMusic engendered a sense of musical creativity (see Table 2: Question 4), compared to only one (17%) for Idea. Two participants (33%) described Idea as having too great a degree of musical control to constitute any sense of compositional contest. Inversely, three participants (50%) did identify competitive dynamics within Idea, but described musically creative decisions as being peripheral to this dialogue:

The aims of the levels were not to create music (strictly), they were to have a specific number of sounds playing at once while avoiding enemies and competing with both the movements of the sound and their interactions with other stationary and moving objects. (Participant 2)

These responses suggest that EvoMusic represents the more successful approach to supporting real-time music creation within a competitive setting, particularly given Idea’s notable ludomusical dissonance. It should be noted, however, that EvoMusic also failed to satisfy most participants’ expectation for a game, and so it is not clear that EvoMusic’s antagonistic dialogue can be said to constitute competitive gameplay.

As a final insight from the study results, EvoMusic and Idea prompted two participants (33%) to express what might be construed as aesthetic objections toward the mixing of competitive and musically creative interactions:

The hostiles made it challenging…I’d rather just make music, not be chased around by something eating my notes. (Participant 3, on Idea)

The growth of the bubbles as well as the unpredictable nature…of the music they emitted left me frustrated. (Participant 2, on EvoMusic)

Both responses indicate a frustration with experiences of challenge or contest that may not have arisen had the games been purely designed to engender free discovery, expression, and musical play. Further, Participant 2’s frustration was directed toward EvoMusic’s more abstract competitive dialogue, clarifying that aesthetic tensions do not only arise from conventional ludic contexts involving winning, losing, or combat. The two excerpts above were the only instances throughout the survey results in which participants articulated an aesthetic tension between music creation and competitive gameplay.

The juxtaposition of EvoMusic and Idea highlighted a deep tension between players’ ludic and compositional expectations. Idea was the preferred gameplay experience due to its level of challenge, ludic goals, progression, and combat, yet these competitive elements either distracted or altogether disincentivized compositional interaction. EvoMusic was inversely characterized as the stronger music creation experience yet also as the weaker game for lacking the same goals, progression, and challenge that eclipsed musical engagement within Idea. To summarize their relationship: Idea’s ludic focus weakened its compositional experience, and EvoMusic’s compositional focus weakened its ludic experience.

At first, this might suggest that music creation and competitive gameplay are better enjoyed as discrete experiences; after all, games like Otocky and Chiptune Runner include separate “god modes” that remove the possibility of defeat for the benefit of free musical play, as one participant (17%) recommended for Idea. Conversely, the most frequent suggestions for each game were to introduce stronger ludic elements into EvoMusic and to promote a greater focus on music creation within Idea. This convergence instead suggests a more complex interplay between music creation and competitive gameplay, where elements of each may be desirable despite their apparent conflicts. Perhaps a balance point exists for each player where their musical and ludic expectations could be equally satisfied by an appropriate blend of design elements. One participant (17%) even seemed to experience such a balance with Idea, enjoying its competitive and creative mechanics as an integrated whole.64 The difficulty is that expectations inevitably differ between players, and so any chosen balance is likely to provoke tensions for some. While this reflects a challenge within game design at large, it is exacerbated in musically creative contexts because the players’ expectations for gameplay and music creation seem so frequently opposed.

Reflecting on Mechanical and Aesthetic Tensions

The study results should not be taken as broadly representative of general player perceptions due to the limited sample size (n=6). Nonetheless, they present a pertinent opportunity to consider how participants reflected the mechanical and aesthetic tensions identified within recent ludomusical discourse. Foremost, the strong reporting of ludomusical dissonance within Idea unequivocally supports Dolphin’s suggestion that the presence of formal competitive mechanics might distract from a focus on music creation.65 The results offered two further insights on this matter: 1) that combat and victory conditions were the specific design elements most responsible for inviting this tension, and 2) that no participant inversely abandoned ludic objectives for the benefit of music creation. This apparent asymmetry also provides one answer to Austin’s question:66 players, when given the choice between sacrificing music creation or strategic advantage, overwhelmingly favored their ludic enjoyment. At first, these conclusions might suggest that music game designers should avoid competitive elements if aiming to engender a primarily creative experience. It must be noted, however, that competitive elements were not only expected of gameful contexts but substantially informed participants’ preference for Idea over EvoMusic. Accordingly, it is crucial that designers carefully consider the underlying values and expectations of their target audience—such as a penchant for combat or progression—when deciding how best to situate music creation within a gameful setting.

Aesthetic incongruities between music creation and competitive gameplay were surprisingly underrepresented in the results, being expressed by only two participants (33%) in a single response each. It might be argued that participants tacitly aligned music creation with paidia by characterizing EvoMusic as both the superior compositional experience and as lacking ludic elements. This relationship—though not quite positing an aesthetic incongruity—reflects the ludomusical mappings of Austin and Kassabian and Jarman, who characterize music creation as being paidic, free, liberatory, and exploratory in contrast to the disciplinary and rule-bound nature of ludic interaction.67 Conversely, it cannot be overlooked that five participants (83%) desired either greater challenge or ludic objectives within EvoMusic, suggesting that some may enjoy aesthetic experiences of competitive gameplay within music-making contexts. This is supported by a previous study of EvoMusic, where none of the twenty-four participants referenced feelings of stress, pressure, or challenge save for brief allusions as a desirable gameplay experience.68 The participants surveyed herein might simply prefer ludic engagement over musically creative interaction; Idea was, after all, their preferred game. In any case, designers should not broadly presume that competitive gameplay is aesthetically misaligned with music creation, lest the diversity and complexity of player perceptions, values, and expectations be obscured.

Comparing Approaches to Ludic Music Creation

At this point, it is pertinent to compare the success of each design approach in supporting real-time music creation and competitive gameplay simultaneously. Four participants (67%) articulated EvoMusic’s intended competitive dialogue whilst also describing the experience as musically creative; this aligns with a previous study of EvoMusic, where fourteen of twenty-four participants (58%) also expressed both perceptions.69 For Idea, participants instead characterized music creation as being peripheral to the competitive game framework, or even disincentivized by it. This disparity suggests that the approach taken by EvoMusic better supports the synthesis of music creation and competitive gameplay: there are no extramusical incentives, simply an adversarial dialogue between system and player, driven only by their creative goals, and for which the outcomes are wholly compositional. The caveat, as revealed by the study results, is that to support music creation in this way seems also to require weakening the “game” experience, at least insofar as players’ expectations. Idea undoubtedly provided the more engaging competitive gameplay experience despite broadly failing to support musical creativity, and it was notably preferred over EvoMusic’s more successful synthesis of the two.

To address the titular question: competitive digital games can support musically creative experiences for certain players, though it is a significant design challenge to satisfy expectations for both within a single system. As such, designers in this space should carefully consider: 1) their aims with introducing competitive dynamics into music-making contexts, 2) the intended roles of music creation and competitive gameplay within the overall experience, and 3) the expectations for each that players may hold. If one’s foremost aim is ludic engagement with music-making as a novel mechanical twist, then game elements such as combat, progression, and extramusical goals should be included to meet player expectations. If one’s goal is instead to explore music creation as a gameful dialogue in itself, then these extramusical elements should be minimized due to their intrusive influence on the compositional experience.

Potentials for Future Research

This research has revealed a complex interplay between music creation and competitive gameplay that warrants further investigation. Most immediately, a larger user study is needed to determine if the results herein have authentically represented the general player experience. Games such as Otocky or Chiptune Runner could then be subjected to similar user studies to investigate if the reported tensions persist across the design space or simply emerge as idiosyncrasies of interacting with EvoMusic and Idea. Future research might also explore how alternative gaming platforms, interfaces, and control inputs influence the perceived interplay of ludic and compositional interactions. For instance, how might the notion of competitive music creation be approached in the context of audio games, which rely exclusively on auditory and tactile feedback for players with impaired vision?70 Inversely, it may be pertinent to explore how visuality and interface aesthetics influence players’ ludic and music creation experiences, particularly given that one participant justified their preference for Idea based on its graphics (see Table 5).71

Any such inquiries would benefit from exploring wider conceptions of musical interaction with games. For instance, Isabella van Elferen’s ALI model considers how musical affect, musical literacy, and musical interaction each contribute to a music-specific immersion into games and “sound play”;72 this framework could establish a deeper profiling of participants, particularly regarding their game-musical literacy and its role in shaping the perceptions and expectations reported herein. Oliva also argues for “ergodic musicking” as a new paradigm of ludomusical inquiry,73 which could account for the wider forms of musical participation invited by music creation games—such as performing, improvising, or dancing—and thus investigate their influence on the interactive composition experience. Finally, new perspectives might be offered by broader psychological investigations into the relationship between creativity and competition. One study found that expert piano improvisations were judged as being more “creative” when performed under competitive conditions, despite an increase in the performers’ stress levels.74 This challenges not only an established psychological canon but any tacit assumption that competitive gameplay is inherently unconducive to musically creative processes.75 Future research in these areas is likely to unearth new understandings of musically creative video games.

In many regards, this article has suggested that competitive gameplay and real-time music creation are themselves competing forces. Few music creation video games have included competitive elements, and a review of theoretical perspectives from game studies and ludomusicology highlighted a series of mechanical and aesthetic design tensions between the two. In turn, a comparative user study of two original games revealed these tensions as being reflected within the player experience. Participants reported that strong ludic incentives, such as combat or victory, either distracted from or disincentivized musically creative engagement—a relationship that was not reciprocated. Further, participants were shown to hold conflicting expectations for ludic and compositional experiences, such that appeasing one seemed inherently to work against the other. This complex and conflicting interplay between competitive games and music creation offers one plausible account of why so few designers have sought to combine them. There remains, however, an untapped potential for new forms of ludomusical interaction. Four of six participants (67%) characterized EvoMusic as being simultaneously competitive and creatively stimulating, while one participant (17%) experienced Idea’s conflicting ludic and compositional incentives as synthesizing into an enjoyable whole. The implication is that competitive games can support real-time music creation for certain players, even if falling short of our expectations for each. Future research may illuminate a path forward for the design of ludically stimulating music-making experiences, and in doing so unearth new understandings of the relationship between games, play, and music.

1.

Karen Collins, Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 111; Michael Austin, “Introduction—Taking Note of Music Games,” in Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play, ed. Michael Austin (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016); Michael Austin, “Music Games,” in The Cambridge Companion to Video Game Music, ed. Melanie Fritsch and Tim Summers (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 144.

2.

Karen Collins, “An Introduction to Procedural Music in Video Games,” Contemporary Music Review 28, no. 1 (2009): 7, https://doi.org/10.1080/07494460802663983 (accessed December 10, 2021); Anahid Kassabian and Freya Jarman, “Game and Play in Music Video Games,” in Ludomusicology: Approaches to Video Game Music, ed. Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, and Mark Sweeney (Sheffield, UK: Equinox, 2016), 129; Andrew Dolphin, “Designing Sound Toys: Play as Composition,” in The Oxford Handbook of Interactive Audio, ed. Karen Collins, Bill Kapralos, and Holly Tessler (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 45–61.

3.

Dolphin, “Designing Sound Toys,” 46; Austin, “Taking Note,” 5; Kassabian and Jarman, “Game and Play,” 129.

4.

Costantino Oliva describes this meld of musical and ludic activity as “ergodic musicking,” uniquely engendered by the cybernetic qualities of digital games; Costantino Oliva, “Musicking with Digital Games” (PhD diss., University of Malta, 2019); Norbert Herber, “The Composition-Instrument: Emergence, Improvisation and Interaction in Games and New Media,” in From Pac-Man to Pop Music: Interactive Audio in Games and New Media, ed. Karen Collins (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008).

5.

Dolphin, “Designing Sound Toys,” 48–50.

6.

Hans Westgeest, “Ghiselin Danckerts’ ‘Ave Maris Stella’: The Riddle Canon Solved,” Tijdschrift Van De Vereniging Voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis 36 (1986): 66–79, https://doi.org/10.2307/938614 (accessed December 10, 2021); Stephen A. Hedges, “Dice Music in the Eighteenth Century,” Music and Letters 59, no. 2 (1978): 180–87, https://doi.org/10.1093/ml/59.2.180 (accessed December 10, 2021); Benny Sluchin and Mikhail Malt, “Play and Game in Duel and Strategy” (paper presented at the Xenakis International Symposium, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2011); John Brackett, John Zorn: Tradition and Transgression (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008).

7.

Dana M. Plank, “Mario Paint Composer and Musical (Re)Play on YouTube,” in Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play, ed. Michael Austin (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016).

8.

Michael D’Errico, “Interface Aesthetics: Sound, Software, and the Ecology of Digital Audio Production” (PhD diss., University of California, 2016).

9.

Collins, Game Sound, 112–13.

10.

Toshio Iwai, Composition on the Table, Interactive Installation, August 1999, (SIGGRAPH 1999: technOasis), https://digitalartarchive.siggraph.org/artwork/toshio-iwai-composition-on-the-table-no-1-push-no-2-twist-no-3-turn-no-4-slide/ (accessed November 7, 2021).

11.

Tina Blaine and Clifton Forlines, “Jam-O-World: Evolution of the Jam-O-Drum Multi-player Musical Controller into the Jam-O-Whirl Gaming Interface” (paper presented at the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Dublin, Ireland, May 2002), https://dl.acm.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/1085171.1085176 (accessed November 7, 2021).

12.

James Patten, Ben Recht, and Hiroshi Ishii, “Audiopad: A Tag-Based Interface for Musical Performance” (paper presented at the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Dublin, Ireland, May 2002), https://www.nime.org/proceedings/2002/nime2002_148.pdf (accessed November 7, 2021); Martin Kaltenbrunner, Sergi Jordà, Günter Geiger, and Marcos Alonso, “The Reactable: A Collaborative Musical Instrument” (paper presented at the 2006 Workshop on Tangible Interaction in Collaborative Environments, Manchester, UK, 2006), http://doi.org/10.1109/WETICE.2006.68 (accessed November 7, 2021); Tina Blaine and Tim Perkis, “The Jam-O-Drum Interactive Music System: A Study in Interaction Design” (paper presented at the 3 rd Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, New York, August 2000), https://doi.org/10.1145/347642.347705 (accessed November 7, 2021); Rodney Berry, Naoto Hikawa, Mao Makino, Makoto Tadenuma, and Masami Suzuki, “The Music Table” (paper presented at the International Computer Music Conference, Singapore, 2003).

13.

Jam-O-Drum featured a multiplayer mini game called “Bounce About,” which can be described as a sonification of a four-way, free-for-all reimagining of the classic arcade game Pong (1972).

14.

This interaction has proven popular in mobile puzzle games like Angry Birds (2009), to which the interface and physics of “Hanenbow” bear some resemblance.

15.

A plant leaf changes color from green to red if repeatedly struck with projectiles, but it gradually reverts while not being struck. If the player can manipulate the plant structure and projectiles to turn all leaves red simultaneously, they are visually “rewarded” with a flower popping out of the plant.

16.

Dolphin, “Designing Sound Toys.”

17.

Jim Buckley, Tabea DeWille, Chris Exton, and Geraldine Exton, “A Gamification-Motivation Design Framework for Educational Software Developers,” Journal of Education Technology Systems 47, no. 1 (2018): 101–27, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0047239518783153 (accessed November 7, 2021).

18.

Dale Parson, “Chess-Based Composition and Improvisation for Non-Musicians” (paper presented at the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Pittsburgh, PA, June 2009), http://users.notam02.no/arkiv/proceedings/NIME2009/nime2009/pdf/author/nm090018.pdf (accessed November 7, 2021); Dale Parson, “Algorithmic Musical Improvisation from 2d Board Games” (paper presented at the International Computer Music Conference, New York, 2010), http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.bbp2372.2010.061 (accessed November 7, 2021); Kirsty Keatch, “An Exploration of Peg Solitaire as a Compositional Tool” (paper presented at the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, London, 2014), http://www.nime.org/proceedings/2014/nime2014_466.pdf (accessed November 7, 2021).

19.

Luke Dahl and Ge Wang, “Sound Bounce: Physical Metaphors in Designing Mobile Music Performance” (paper presented at the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Sydney, June 2010), http://mcd.stanford.edu/publish/files/2010-nime-soundbounce.pdf (accessed November 7, 2021); Marcelo Gimenes, “Experiments on Collective Decision-Making and Musical Metacreative Performances with Audience Participation” (paper presented at the International Workshop on Musical Metacreation, Salamanca, Spain, June 2018), https://musicalmetacreation.org/mume2018/proceedings/Gimenes.pdf (accessed November 7, 2021).

20.

Created by Joost van Dongen, Cello Fortress involves defending a virtual onscreen fortress from multiple attacking players by using cello improvisations to control guns, flamethrowers, and other defenses. A video demonstration is available at http://www.cellofortress.com/ (accessed July 12, 2021). Created by Christof Ressi, interaction with game_over_1.0.0 is controlled through live clarinet performance and resembles classic arcade games like Space Invaders (1978) and Galaga (1981). A video demonstration is available at https://vimeo.com/203473492 (accessed July 12, 2021).

21.

Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek, “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research” (paper presented at the AAAI Workshop on Challenges in Game AI, San Jose, CA, July 2004), https://www.aaai.org/Papers/Workshops/2004/WS-04-04/WS04-04-001.pdf (accessed November 7, 2021).

22.

The use of the term aesthetic herein does not refer colloquially to “visual appearance” nor to the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste. Here, the aesthetic of a game (or gameplay interaction) refers to the emotional experiences it evokes within players, such as a sense of “fellowship,” “expression,” or “challenge”; Hunicke et al., “MDA,” 2.

23.

Roger Caillois, Man, Play and Games, trans. Meyer Barash (1961; repr., Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2001).

24.

Austin, “Music Games,” 144; Austin, “Taking Note.”

25.

Juha Arrasvuori, Marion Boberg, and Hannu Korhonen, “Understanding Playfulness: An Overview of the Revised Playful Experience (PLEX) Framework” (paper presented at the International Conference on Design and Emotion, Chicago, October 2010), https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/211840002.pdf (accessed November 7, 2021).

26.

Hunicke et al., “MDA,” 2.

27.

Hunicke et al., 3.

28.

Austin, “Taking Note,” 5.

29.

Austin, 5.

30.

Kassabian and Jarman, “Game and Play,” 123.

31.

Kassabian and Jarman, 130.

32.

Dolphin, “Designing Sound Toys,” 45.

33.

Dolphin, 46.

34.

Kassabian and Jarman, “Game and Play,” 129.

35.

Chris Crawford, The Art of Computer Game Design (Berkeley, CA: Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 1984).

36.

Ge Wang, “Game Design for Expressive Mobile Music” (paper presented at the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Brisbane, July 2016), 182, http://www.nime.org/proceedings/2016/nime2016_paper0038.pdf (accessed November 7, 2021).

37.

Sameh Said-Metwaly, Eva Kyndt, and Wim Van Noortgate, “Approaches to Measuring Creativity: A Systematic Literature Review,” Creativity. Theories–Research–Applications 4, no. 2 (2017): 238–75, https://doi.org/10.1515/ctra-2017-0013 (accessed November 7, 2021).

38.

Mary Flanagan, Critical Play: Radical Game Design (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009); Jesper Juul, Handmade Pixels: Independent Video Games and the Quest for Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019).

39.

Nathan Fleshner, “The Ideas of Play and Game in Creative-Based Video Games” (paper presented at the North American Conference on Video Game Music, Austin, TX, January 2017); Samantha Blickhan, “Listening through Digital Interaction in Björk’s Biophilia,” in Ludomusicology: Approaches to Video Game Music, ed. Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, and Mark Sweeney (Sheffield, UK: Equinox, 2016), 133–51.

40.

Bernard Suits, Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2005); Jesper Juul, Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005).

41.

Suits, Grasshopper; Fleshner, “Ideas of Play and Game.”

42.

Juul, Half-Real; Blickhan, “Listening through Digital Interaction.”

43.

Michael Austin, “Sample, Cycle, Sync: The Music Sequencer and Its Influence on Music Video Games,” in Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play, ed. Michael Austin (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016), 122; Roger Moseley, Keys to Play: Music as a Ludic Medium from Apollo to Nintendo (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016), 259; Oliva, “Musicking with Digital Games,” 209.

44.

Austin, “Sample, Cycle, Sync,” 122.

45.

Dolphin, “Designing Sound Toys,” 46.

46.

Oliva, “Musicking with Digital Games,” 207.

47.

At times, the ludically optimal action will also happen to produce the player’s desired musical outcome.

48.

Clint Hocking, “Ludonarrative Dissonance in Bioshock,” Click Nothing, October 7, 2007, accessed July 12, 2021, http://clicknothing.typepad.com/click_nothing/2007/10/ludonarrative-d.html.

49.

Kassabian and Jarman, “Game and Play,” 129.

50.

This “aesthetic outcome” might include harmonic or rhythmic cacophony, textural density, or silence.

51.

Music generation is achieved through simple stochastic processes including first order markov chains and generative grammars.

52.

Open Sound Control (OSC) is a communication protocol useful for networking multimedia devices with audio processing environments; Thomas Frederick’s UnityOSC scripts, example projects, and a brief written tutorial are available at http://thomasfredericks.github.io/UnityOSC/ (accessed July 12, 2021).

53.

The protocol is entitled “Evaluating game-based applications for real-time interactive music composition” (H-2018-0510), approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee on February 20, 2019.

54.

The order in which participants played EvoMusic and Idea was randomly assigned as a control.

55.

Dan Stowell, Andrew Robertson, Nick Bryan-Kinns, and Mark D. Plumbley, “Evaluation of Live Human-Computer Music-Making: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches,” International Journal of Human Computer Studies 67, no. 11 (2009): 960–75, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2009.05.007 (accessed November 7, 2021).

56.

John Brooke, “SUS: A Quick and Dirty Usability Scale,” in Usability Evaluation in the Industry, ed. P. W. Jordan, B. Thomas, and B. A. Weerdemeester (London: Taylor and Francis, 1996), 189–94; Aaron Bangor, Philip Kortum, and James Miller, “An Empirical Evaluation of the System Usability Scale,” International Journal of Human Computer Interaction 24, no. 6 (2008): 574–94, https://doi.org/10.1080/10447310802205776 (accessed December 10, 2021); Szu-Ming Chung and Chun-Tunsai Wu, “Designing Music Games and Mobile Apps for Early Music Learning,” in Serious Games and Edutainment Applications: Volume II, ed. Minhua Ma and Andreas Oikonomou (Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2017), 57–76.

57.

John W. Creswell, Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, 3 rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2009), 213–14.

58.

Aaron Bangor, Philip Kortum, and James Miller, “Determining What Individual SUS Scores Mean: Adding an Adjective Rating Scale,” Journal of Usability Studies 4, no. 3 (2009): 117, https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.5555/2835587.2835589 (accessed December 10, 2021).

59.

David R. Thomas, “A General Inductive Approach for Analyzing Qualitative Evaluation of Data,” American Journal of Evaluation 27, no. 2 (2006): 237–46, https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355771819000487 (accessed December 10, 2021).

60.

Creswell describes this approach as “integrating” qualitative and quantitative data; Creswell, Research Design, 208.

61.

Thomas Studley, Jon Drummond, Nathan Scott, and Keith Nesbitt, “Evaluating Digital Games for Competitive Music Composition,” Organised Sound 25, no. 1 (2020): 75–88, https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355771819000487 (accessed December 10, 2021).

62.

Statistical comparisons, such as t-tests, are of questionable validity with so few participants, and have been included primarily for data transparency.

63.

EvoMusic and Idea each had three participants (50%) perceive it as affording greater control than the other.

64.

See responses from Participant 5 in the section “Sources of Ludomusical Dissonance in Idea.

65.

Dolphin, “Designing Sound Toys,” 46.

66.

Austin, “Sample, Cycle, Sync,” 122.

67.

Austin, “Taking Note,” 5; Kassabian and Jarman, “Game and Play,” 123–30.

68.

Thomas Studley, “Exploring Real-Time Music Composition through Competitive Gameplay Interactions” (PhD diss., University of Newcastle, 2021), 153.

69.

Studley, 150–51.

70.

Johnny Friberg and Dan Gärdenfors, “Audio Games: New Perspectives on Game Audio” (paper presented at the SIGCHI International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology, Singapore, 2004), https://doi.org/10.1145/1067343.1067361 (accessed December 12, 2021).

71.

D’Errico, “Interface Aesthetics.”

72.

Isabella van Elferen, “Analysing Game Musical Immersion: The ALI Model,” in Ludomusicology: Approaches to Video Game Music, ed. Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, and Mark Sweeney (Sheffield, UK: Equinox, 2016), 33.

73.

Oliva’s approach emphasizes the diverse forms of ludic and musical participation engendered by digital games over analyses of their musical contents; Oliva, “Musicking with Digital Games.”

74.

Jacob Eisenberg and William F. Thompson, “The Effects of Competition on Improvisers’ Motivation, Stress, and Creative Performance,” Creativity Research Journal 23, no. 2 (2011): 129–36, https://doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2011.571185 (accessed December 10, 2021).

75.

Teresa M. Amabile, “Children’s Artistic Creativity: Detrimental Effects of Competition in a Field Setting,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 8, no. 3 (1982): 573–78.

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