The Soundscape of Alola: Exploring the Use of Hawaiian Musical Tropes and Motifs in the World of Pokémon Sun and Moon

Article


Gunn, M. 2022. The Soundscape of Alola: Exploring the Use of Hawaiian Musical Tropes and Motifs in the World of Pokémon Sun and Moon. Journal of Sound and Music in Games. 3 (2-3), pp. 59-76. https://doi.org/10.1525/jsmg.2022.3.2-3.59
AuthorsGunn, M.
Abstract

This article explores how Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon use Hawaiian musical tropes and nondiegetic signifiers throughout the games, helping to “situate the player in the game.” This identification relies on a combination of player cultural literacy and game musical literacy to contextualize the Pokémon region of Alola. The soundscape of the game is made up of the underscore, incorporating traditional instruments from the steel guitar to Ka'eke'eke drums, alongside diegetic sounds to evoke and situate gameplay in a culture and geography most likely foreign to the player. The player’s ability to contextualize and situate themselves in this region relies on a combination of their cultural and game musical literacy.

This investigation will also address the consumption of Hawaiian culture both within Japan and in the West, and the portrayal of its traditional music and performance within not only the Pokémon franchise but other AAA game titles that have been enjoyed globally. The use of these musical tropes and nondiegetic signifiers simultaneously grounds the player in the region of Alola, whilst constructing a sense of “otherness” in a Hawaiian soundscape designed by composers who are observing and enjoying the culture as tourists and visitors.

The soundscape developed for Alola takes inspiration from traditional Hawaiian culture and music, but it ultimately diverges from these musical traditions and thereby produces a sonic environment unique to the fictional region. Consequently, players develop a literacy built through a return to the sounds traditionally associated with the Pokémon game franchise with a new addition of Hawaiian musical tropes to create a region that serves as something of a pastiche of Hawai'i, packaged to be culturally palatable and consumable to nonnative audiences.

KeywordsHawaiian Music; Hawai'i; Exoticism; Pokémon; Literacy; Tourism
JournalJournal of Sound and Music in Games
Journal citation3 (2-3), pp. 59-76
ISSN2578-3432
Year2022
PublisherUniversity of California Press
Publisher's version
License
File Access Level
Anyone
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1525/jsmg.2022.3.2-3.59
Publication dates
Online01 Jul 2022
Publication process dates
Deposited21 Mar 2024
Copyright holder© 2022, Society for the Study of Sound and Music in Games
Copyright informationAuthorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by Society for the Study of Sound and Music in Games for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center
Additional information

Published as: Gunn, M. (2022). The Soundscape of Alola: Exploring the Use of Hawaiian Musical Tropes and Motifs in the World of Pokémon Sun and Moon. Journal of Sound and Music in Games, 3 (2-3) p. 59-76. https://doi.org/10.1525/jsmg.2022.3.2-3.59

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JSMG03_02-03_03_Gunn.pdf
License: All rights reserved
File access level: Anyone

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