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Video Games for General Music

Last year in my classroom, I designed a unit on music in video games. Students discussed and played video games and then created their own. This project met several national standards and my own learning outcomes for the course while allowing students voice and choice in their learning. In my student-centered classroom environment, their ideas are valued and their interests are key as I plan lessons and projects.


Here is what I created and what they completed. This was a first attempt and will continue to be tweaked in future years.


Learning Objectives:

  • Students will be able to describe and articulate the role of music in video games. This includes its effects on emotions and its purpose in game play.

  • Students will be able to compose simple melodies to accompany their own video game character.

  • Students will write introduction and conclusion music for game play that sets the tone of the game.


Project Steps:


Exploration

First, students engage in a conversation about the video games they enjoy. What makes these games special? What does it feel like to play without music? What is the role of the music in these games? Students have the opportunity to play some teacher-approved video games and discuss with each other the intro and conclusion music. While playing games, students take notes and describe game using music and emotion words. Ex: Tonality, rhythm, tempo, happy, sad, frustrated, excited


Discussion

Discuss as a group: What is the purpose of music in video games? How does it affect the emotions of the players?

Context: Connections to outside world. Youtube interviews, expert, etc.


Creation

Using Scratch, a free online tool created by MIT, students create a short video game. Students then write music for the intro and the conclusion of the game. These games are shared with others in the class for feedback and fun.


Scratch Platform

The scratch platform is very user friendly but does require a little training to help students use it successfully.


Here is what the platform looks like at the start of a new project



Instead of presenting the how-to at the front of the classroom all at the same time, I created tutorial videos for my students using Loom. This allowed them to explore and learn at their own pace. They could also move forward through information they already knew or go back when they forgot or, as was often the case, they moved too quickly through important information. Throughout the creation process, students shared their work with me and received feedback.


Here are the tutorial videos I created each day for my students:


Assessment


How was this graded?

I created a check-box assessment. Students looked at their own work and assessed it, then I looked at their work and assessed it. The final score was a combination of both assessment.s


Check boxes:

1. A character (sprite) that moves up, down, left, and right. It should not flip upside down when the left key is pressed

2. An object (sprite) that is collected by your character. The object should randomly move after it's collected

3. A musical theme plays at the start of the game

4. A musical theme plays at the end of the game

5. A musical theme plays when the object is collected (character sound)


National Core Arts Standards included in this project:

MU:Cr1.1.6a -- Creating musical phrases


MU:Cr2.1.6a -- Expressive intent


MU:Cr2.1.6b -- Using notation and software to document musical ideas


MU:Cr3.1.6a -- Evaluate work


MU:Cr3.1.6b -- Revisions based on teacher feedback


MU:Cr3.2.6a -- Sharing your creation



A few final thoughts about this project:

  • I am not a video game designer or a computer programmer, and I think that's important. I learned how to do this right along with my students.


  • Students came into the room with skills both in programming and in composition. Some were brand new to both composition and programming, and some had skills!


  • Students love to talk about their passions. They loved talking about the video games they play at home and sharing those with others in class.


  • Project plans are key. I did this project with middle school students, and they need organizational tools to reach the finish line.


Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments!


Other resources:

This conference presentation by Tony Beatrice includes many fun tech/music integration ideas, including video game music.