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Chaos in the Cosmos: The Play of Contradictions in the 'Music of Katamari Damacy'

Keywords: Katamari Damacy , video game

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Abstract:

At first glance, Katamari Damacy (Namco, 2004) is a simple and cheery video game. The colors are vibrant, the music is upbeat, the controls are intuitive and easy to learn with very little instruction, and the player’s task, to create stars to populate the night sky by rolling terrestrial objects into a sticky ball (katamari), is childish in its whimsy. Yet the game is full of thematic complexities and complications, which raise a number of ethical and aesthetic problems, including the relationships between childhood and terror, father and son, and digital and analog; furthermore, the complexities governing each of these pairs are cleverly underscored by the game’s music.The article traces a musical theme that serves as the game’s idée fixe as it appears and is transformed in the music across several of the game’s levels. The theme first undergoes a transformation from acoustic, vocal production to digital post-production, then helps locate the game within a kawaii (cute) aesthetic that hearkens to childhood, and is finally obscured beneath a digital wash of sound in one of the game’s advanced levels, where its appearance contributes to an overall disorienting sense of terror produced by both the song’s unusual sonic effects as well as the level’s difficulty. Because the music has the potential to affect player performance, even non-diegetic, non-dynamic video game music can serve profoundly different functions than non-diegetic film music.

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