Death Metal Underground

RocKonference analyzes similarity between metal and video games

by Brett Stevens
May 1, 2013 –

dung_beetles-video-gameThe University of Montreal in Quebec presented a conference on the cultural, aesthetic and historical hybridizations between video games on heavy metal. The presentations, occurring on March 15th, are available via video at the bottom of this post.

Although the conference was presented in French, the video is fully captioned in English. Professors Dominic Arsenault and Louis-Martin Guay presented their research as the cornerstone of the conference, covering the origins of their interest in the topic and some of its history.

That history moves us through the arcade era from pinball machines to stand-alone video games, then takes us through the home gaming revolution with 8-bit machines, and finally to 16-bit gaming and now modern game as technology evolved and became cheaper. It compares the music, imagery and traditions of both metal and video game cultures.

At the peak of this is Professor Arsenault’s attempt to meld metal and classic gaming, covering “experimentations in transfictionality, sound design and concept for 8-bit metal that’s not just metal covers, 8-bit covers, game-themed metal or chiptunes.” Arsenault, who believes metal and video games are a natural fit, has presented related research at other conferences to great success.

Our two cents here is that metal and video games arose almost in parallel and both emphasized the solitary youth whose parents, fractured by divorce and social chaos, withdrew in an age of nuclear terror. As a result, both genres tend to focus on conceptual settings that emphasize both escapism, and a tackling in this new escapist context of ideas that threaten the solitary adventurer in real life. By placing those threatening ideas in an otherworldly context, they can be addressed as removed from their painful (and boring) day-to-day reality.

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13 comments

    1. bitterman

      Ah, the good old Sega Genesis. I also read the composer to this Thunder Force game put Yngwie Malmsteen and Iron Maiden riffs into his compositions for the game, if not blatantly stealing them. Neptune Towers and Beherit were already doing the whole dark ambient (“black” ambient experimentation) by the year Quake was released, and Trent Reznor did the soundtrack to that game (his only good work), a lot of which mirrored the first industrial/ambient Beherit release. Napalm Death was on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, Godflesh was in a Jeff Goldblumm movie, Slayer’s Behind the Crooked Cross was in the Doom soundtrack… those are strange occurrences to look back on.

  • bitterman

    The only similarity they share is that the same fate befell both of them. 1996 saw 3D graphics become big, but the games now were retreads of the releases of yesteryear dressed up to appear new. Quake, with it’s Cthulhu-mythos (metal) inspired setting, was the last cool game released, and even then it’s a dressed up Doom (replace Divine Comedy homages with Lovecraft’s imagination). Why pay so much money for all these consoles and games? The same cycle repeats itself in terms of releases, only the graphics change, not unlike metal. One year Cradle of Filth is the obvious money making bastardization of Iron Maiden for Sisters of Mercy fans, a few years later, Nachtmystium comes around and repackages Joy Division for Xasthur fans. Kverletak, Liturgy, Solefald, Deafheaven, Weakling, Wolves in the Throne Room, Enslaved, Fear Factory… mankind’s destructive nature, throughout the ages…

    1. deadite

      Wrong. So very, very wrong. There were a lot of good titles up until the early 2000s. As of now the market is flooded with bullshit but I digress:

      - Starcraft
      - Diablo (and Diablo II)
      - Silent Hill
      - Resident Evil (up until like, 2 or 3)
      - Total Annihilation
      - Half Life (and its assorted mods, Counter Strike, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress [I know this was originally a Quake mod], etc)
      - Age of Empires (1 and 2, and 2′s expansion)

      I’m sure there’s more.

      1. Brett Stevens Post author

        Not agreeing or disagreeing, as I’m out of my depth with video games, but an important point is:

        There is still the potential for greatness in both metal and video games.

        It comes from making the right decisions, not the number of the year.

        That being said, I’m always going to have nostalgia for the classic games… whatever they were.

  • rw

    I just paid $20 for Age of Kings, a game first released in 2000 or so. It’s head and tail better than the vast majority of games out these days.

  • Ralph Archer

    It seems a lot of metal heads are playing video games. Amirite? Makes sense: if we realize this is a “painful (and boring) day-to-day reality”, metal and video games bring relief in extreme ways, with the obvious difference that good metal is, um, existentially weightier.

  • Cargast

    Greatest musical inspirations of mine, by genre:

    Yes, Genesis, Camel; Maiden, Bathory, Morbid Angel; Seiken Densetsu 2 and 3, Illusion of Gaia/Terranigma, Mystic Quest Legend, Zelda

    1. Cargast

      As for the last part of the article, I frequently played those games with my parents – they introduced me to Mario, Castlevania, Sonic, etc. I’ve never got the stereotype that “metal kids have problems with their parents” – this has only rung true in two or three instances, as far as I’ve experienced. Usually the relationship is quite healthy, with the parents being supportive of the interest in Metal, regardless of whether they appreciate the music or not. Must be the generation gap.

      1. Tralf

        Agree. Though my mom still thinks metal is ‘demonic’, my dad got the ball rolling with his 70′s hard rock cds and even took me to my first concert ever: DRAGONFORCE.