Composing the Hero

Musical Gender Construction of Fantasy RPG Heroes

  • Katherine Owens Baylor University


In recent years, the academic study of video game music has increased as players express greater interest in listening to scores outside of play. While much study is dedicated to how music communicates gendered narrative within cinema, these same semiotics are little explored in the musical scores of games. This article examines music’s role in characterizing gendered narrative tropes of heroism and action within fantasy RPGs. Drawing on ludomusicalogical theories of game music function, gender film music theory, and narratological structuring of heroes and heroines, this article examines how music informs players of gender identity in video game character construction and play. The musical content for the themes of the hero Kratos from God of War (Santa Monica Studio, 2018) and the heroine Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games, 2017) are analyzed to determine how game creators and composers communicate, intentionally or otherwise, gendered ideals of heroic narrative through instrumentation, tonality, and rhythm. By comparing these musical themes and their gender connotations to the plot, character construction, and player interaction of both Kratos and Aloy reveals how music adheres or subverts traditional narrative tropes of heroes and heroines.

January 18, 2022