BCM 215

Digital Artefact – Contextual Report

My Digital Artefact, (DA), for Game Media Industries, is an Instagram account on the Nintendo video game Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (MK8D) called ‘adrian_luvs_mario’. 

My pitch – on creating cooking videos – was changed in response to feedback from students and the tutor, who praised my voice-over and image usage, but cited a lack of analysis. 

To produce a better DA, I’ve played and analysed MK8D, using Raessens’ analytical frameworks. I’ve evaluated his Techniques of Participation, (connectivity, multimediality, interactivity, virtuality), and Types of Participation, (specifically reconfiguration), and their interconnection, with reference to the game’s music and sound effects. I will also discuss Raessens’ frameworks’ links to the concept of ‘hegemony’, regarding MK8D’s influences beyond the video game industry.

According to blogger Thomas Morgan, “MK8D focuses mainly on bolstering the multiplayer elements of the title.” (Morgan, 2017) MK8D offers four different modes for playing in different electronic environments, such as single-player mode, multiplayer mode, online play mode and wireless play mode. These game modes are an example of Raessens’ connectivity, which links players with each other via the internet over a range of distances. This can be extended to include the hegemony or influence of the Mario franchise, which I contend promotes personal connectivity, (not just online), in the game’s fandom. 

The Mario franchise is so popular, Japanese companies sell Mario souvenirs or have Mario in their products to attract consumers to buy them. Until 2020, when Nintendo sued them for intellectual property infringement, MariCar, a Tokyo tourist company, attracted thousands of avid Mario fans world-over to visit the capitol, dress-up as their favourite Mario character and drive around the city’s streets. This Mario ‘soft power hegemony’ promotes Japan’s culture and of course, the game franchise.

MK8D has a high degree of interactivity – the cybernetic relationship between players and the game. The game interacts with players by responding to their commands and providing challenges. Players exert a lot of game control through their avatar. Players can develop strategies, bank and reveal items at different times to gain the race advantage.

In MK8D, Raessens’ interactivity combines with his concept of multimediality – the game’s media elements – both visual and auditory. This is demonstrated through the 48 racetracks, 42 characters and 48 race soundtracks which immerse players in the game’s virtuality – its unreal worlds. MK8D features virtual race worlds, like, ‘Super Bell Subway’, ‘Animal Crossing’ and ‘Mount Wario’. Each track features animation, graphics, music and sound effects which complements its title and enhances the gameplay. 

According to Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, “Game music has a purpose, and it does incorporate sound effects.” (Miyamoto, n.d.) MK8D’s soundtracks are specifically written and arranged multimedia elements by Nintendo’s composers, from an intricate understanding of every individual racetrack, and have augmented the action with the game’s musical score and sound effects. (8-bit Music Theory, 2019)

Japan’s finest jazz musicians from bands like ‘T-Square’ and ‘DIMENSION’ recorded the music in a live ensemble. The improvisational, stylistic flair and swing adds to the game’s fun and mass appeal. The Mario anthem has become iconic. Many jazz bands now include it in their musical repertory. Further evidence of the game’s soft power hegemony.

From when we view MK8D’s opening game excerpts, sound effects and music combine for great multi-media effect, which promotes interactivity and thus a greater virtuality experience. According to YouTuber Scruffy, (2021), “The Doppler effect is integral to the feeling of going fast”, and we hear the ‘zoom’ noise of karts racing past, along with the crowd’s wild cheering. Then Mario’s voice is heard, announcing ‘Mario Kart 8!’ Next, Mario Kart’s anthem, a staple in every Mario game, (though played with different musical instruments and tempo), sets the joyous tone. Its up-beat, enormous brass fanfare, accompanied by loud drums, featuring saxophone, electric guitar and keyboard solos, communicates excited anticipation.

In the racetrack, ‘Super Bell Subway’, where the train, shopping mall and passenger images resemble the Paris Metro, the composers have established a ‘French feel’, with the use flugelhorn, accordion and mellow piano. When the action is underground,  the deeper electric bass comes to prominence.

For the ‘Animal Crossing’ race, the music reflects seasonality: Spring with its lightness created by the interplay of flute and trombone; Summer with its vibrating violin and spirited drum taps; Autumn with its relaxed piano, guitar and brushes on drums; Winter with a mellow, soprano saxophone and fewer instruments in a simpler melody.

Mount Wario players start on a mountain top and race to the bottom. The music’s 3 main sections perfectly match the track’s evolution into 3 distinct sections. First, the icy peak, with its dynamic brass, then the cavern, Wario Dam and forest with accompanying ‘shredding violin’ and the rising intensity of saxophone and guitar trading solos to mirror the track’s precarious jumps and increasingly sharp turns. Finally, the musical tension explodes as the racers veer into the final downhill stretch. Violin and guitar are now in unison as we rocket towards the finish line, the brass taking the momentum to a climax as we cross the finish line with the masses applauding. (Siu, 2020)

It’s not the just the music that enhances MK8D’s gameplay. To engage us and reflect the characters’ emotions and behaviours, a plethora of sound effects like the giggle-laugh jingle, animal noises, weather sounds, drift and tyre screech etc, are employed to increase the game’s interactivity. They also obscure the musical transitions when the gameplay moves to a new track part. 

MK8D’s sound effects, along with its music, are also an important part of Raessens’ Type of Participation concept, reconfiguration. Reconfiguration means the game will randomly provide different items, (Power-ups), to help players receive advantages and thus a better race position. After players obtain an item, the item box will disappear and reappear for the player or other players to use it. The most common Power-ups are interactive, multimedia elements like Banana Skin, the various Shells and the Mushrooms. A sound effect accompanies the appearance of these items. Reconfiguration is thus integral to MK8D’s interactivity and virtuality.

From the above analysis we can see the interconnection between the components in Raessens’ Techniques of Participation framework and the reconfiguration factor in his Types of Participation framework, with reference to MK8D’s meticulously crafted musical score and sound effects.

Specifically, the game’s interactivity, virtuality and reconfiguration, integrated with and contingent upon its multimedia elements – is a product of the perfect synergy between visuals, music and sound effects.

All this has been designed and incorporated to elevate the gameplay experience and enjoyment – all integral to MK8D’s status as the most successful, hegemonic video game on the market. 

References:

Abella, D 2021, ‘What makes the audio of Mario Kart 8 so fantastic?’, splice, 5 April, viewed 29 October 2021, <https://splice.com/blog/mario-kart-8-game-audio-fantastic/&gt;.

Christopher Siu 2020, The Fantastic Music Of Mario Kart 8 – Analyzed, online video, 20 July, Christopher Siu, viewed 31 October 2021, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pU8c9Vv3ul8&gt;.

McCarter, W 2017, ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Game Audio Review’, the sound architect, 27 May, viewed 29 October 2021, <https://www.thesoundarchitect.co.uk/mario-kart-8-deluxe-game-audio-review/&gt;.

Miyamoto, S n.d., ‘Game music has a purpose and it does incorporate sound effects’, BrainyQuote, n.d., viewed 27 October 2021, <https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/shigeru_miyamoto_443953&gt;.

Morgan, T 2017, ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: a great console title is a handheld revelation’, Eurogramer, 20 April, viewed 28 October 2021, <https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2017-mario-kart-8-deluxe-tech-analysis&gt;.

Prince, C 2020, ‘Data Reveals Mario Kart 8 Deluxe As The Most Popular game In The Franchise’, THEGAMER, 28 November, viewed 15 October 2021, <https://www.thegamer.com/data-reveals-mario-kart-8-deluxe-most-popular-game-in-franchise/&gt;.

Scruffy 2021, Mario Kart and the Doppler Effect, online video, 30 May, Scruffy, viewed 29 October 2021, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz5yiVBtPvs&gt;.

Whitehead, T 2021, ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Retains Its Crown In Nintendo Switch Best-Selling Games List’, nintendolife, 6 May, viewed 26 October 2021, <https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2021/05/mario_kart_8_deluxe_retains_its_crown_in_nintendo_switch_best-selling_games_list&gt;.

8-bit Music Theory 2019, Mount Wario’s Dynamically Developing Music, online video, 16 March, 8-bit Music Theory, viewed 30 October 2021, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6K4NiDP04I&gt;.

2 thoughts on “BCM 215

  1. Hi Adrian! I think this is a great idea! I like the way you have included a podcast in your pitch video, it allows the reader to see what you are going to produce. The way you have formatted your post is very clear and concise. Your video is also very eye catching with images that match what is being said. The sources you have linked seem to be very useful for your topic. The only note I have for you is to have a think about what your analytical frame is, and implement it for the beta. It will help you with your research process. Otherwise I think your pitch is very good and I am excited to see how your project goes.

    Like

  2. Hi! I was a little confused as to which post was your actual pitch, the use of categories or something on your blog might help your audience to navigate through your posts a little easier. I liked how creative and detailed your video was and how you are planning an inclusive DA Project. I also think it is incredibly relevant how you have included COVID-19 in your post and isolation. I do enjoy all the statistics that you have placed in your post although I think maybe you could have provided a visual image or something to show a detailed explanation of the timeline of your project. I’m excited to see this project develop!

    Like

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