Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire
On Show 2020
Cathal MacRuairí

Video games have become one of the most profitable media industries in the world, currently worth more than the film and music industries combined. The most important concept leading to a quality gaming experience is immersion.

The subject of this research is gaming immersion, using a case study of the soundtrack of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”, released March 2017 to significant critical acclaim (one of the highest rated games of all time), both for the immersiveness of the game world and its soundtrack. The soundtrack breaks many traditions in game composition and Zelda series, using non-conventional compositional techniques, such as extremely sparse orchestration, non-functional harmony, and significant use of silence. This soundtrack has been controversial for this reason, but has also sparked significant discussion into how the immersiveness of a game world can be enhanced by audio design. This research will further this discussion by identifying key reasons for this enhancement by using existing immersion theories and analysis of the soundtrack more

This research identifies key characteristics in the soundtrack that will assist the player’s immersion within the game world, through analysis of compositions and comparing them with game audio theories and models, identifying how specific techniques affect the player’s interpretation, enjoyment, and immersion within the game world. This consists of music theory analysis of the game’s overworld music, identifying key characteristics of compositions, analysis of these compositions in relation to each other, and analysis of these compositional characteristics in relation to theories of game audio and immersion.

In an effort to build on the results and as a demonstration of the research, a piece was composed in the same style (by using the same set of applied compositional techniques), as if to be used in the game. This consists of an older melody from the Zelda series, recontextualised into an impressionist piano composition using similar harmonic structures and harmonic tempo to the original pieces