Research in Game Music: An example of why Wikipedia is a terrible research vehicle

After a bit of a break (just finished up an important recital and then took some time off), I decided I was going to highlight the famous Sega arcade “driving” game, Outrun. I usually start my research by checking the Wikipedia page for the video game, gathering up some information, and then blasting Google until I find enough sources saying the same thing.  A lot of times, I am disappointed with what I find.  There’s not a lot of truth to information out there.  Many of the blogs I read are… basically like me.  So how can I even be sure their sources are true?  They are reading the same sources I’m reading and then I’m using them as a source.  This doesn’t work well.  It creates this whole web of misinformation.  If I can’t confirm something, I don’t write it here.

As a result, I really really try to find a primary source.  Interviews tend to provide the most information.  However, much of the time, the right questions aren’t asked and the information provided is confusing and/or almost useless.  I’m really glad that x composer had a great time making x game.  And I’m really glad that x composer would like to make more music in the future.  I’m also really glad x composer has more projects…. but that doesn’t really explain anything.  I cannot use this information to analyze the score or soundtrack to a game.


(credit:  Brian Gazza – “Outrun”)

Anyhow, while doing research for Sega OutRun, I decided to consult the OutRun‘s wiki first (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outrun).  This is quite a messy article for such an iconic game.  I decided to, instead of talking about the game, talk about the weakness of this Wikipedia entry.

Here’s what I found on the wiki for OutRun‘s music:

Out Run was the first video arcade game that allowed the user to choose the background music, a soundtrack of both laid-back beach music (very similar in style and tone to the popular ’70s/’80s Japanese jazz fusion band Casiopea[original research?]), and some Miami Sound Machine-styled[original research?] Latin/Caribbean beats. Three selectable tracks were featured in all and were broadcast through imaginary FM Radio stations received by the radio receiver in the Testarossa.

The music was composed by Hiroshi Miyauchi; he had composed soundtracks for other Sega games and was part of Sega’s official band at the time, the S.S.T. Band[note 2]

So here, we have an entire paragraph of information missing quotes, explaining to us how the music sounds.  We have no confirmation that the composer(s) were thinking of these specific bands or styles and we don’t even have links to the music itself.  The information may be technically correct but there is no interview or primary source.  This information is utterly useless to me.  I could just write that the music to OutRun sounds like Metallica’s Master of Puppets. There’s nothing written anywhere to refute this.  So to say that the music specifically sounds like Miami Sound Machine without a quote or musical comparison is dangerous.  Furthermore, there’s no quoted source labeling OutRun to be the first game to have selectable music.

Hiroshi Miyauchi.  If you click that link, it is actually broken.  Hiroshi Miyauchi was NOT the composer for Sega OutRun.  Hiroshi Miyauchi was the alias for the composer Hiroshi Kawaguchi, who is still working for Sega and has been since 1986.  Kawaguchi recently worked on the soundtrack for Bayonetta.  Wiki does not have a page for him at all.  (I should make it.)  UPDATE:  Hiroshi Kawaguchi is indeed the composer and is usually referred to as “Hiro”.

The S.S.T. Band (a rock band put together by Sega to perform the music of video games live in concert) had many composers working under aliases and Kawaguchi  (meaning, roughly translated, “mouth of the river”) ran under the alias Miyauchi (meaning, roughly translated, “shrine within the mountains”).  Not sure why he would do this.  Again, there’s no primary source for me to draw upon.  I do know that Hiroshi Miyauchi is the name of the actor who played Kamen Rider in the famous Kamen Rider V3 television series.  I could suspect the name MAY be a homage but again, no confirmation.  Furthermore, if you wiki Hiroshi Kawaguchi, you get the Japanese film actor of the same name, famous for his role as Kiyoshi in Yasujiro Ozu’s remake of the film A Story of Floating Weeds (1934), Floating Weeds(1959). More obscure but again, we don’t know.

There’s a LOT more to attack but I’d rather take a look at the sources:

  1. a b Brian Gazza. “Outrun”. Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  2. ^ Out Run at the Killer List of Videogames
  3. ^ Ashcraft, Brian (2010-07-05). “A Quick Look Back At Sega 3D”. Kotaku. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
  4. ^ “Out Run 3-D for SEGA Master System”. MobyGames. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
  5. ^ “out run [deluxe sit-down model] video game, Sega enterprises, ltd. (1986)”. Arcade-history.com. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2009-07-13.
  6. ^ Kristan Reed (2008-01-18). “Sega Superstars Tennis Preview // Xbox 360 /// Eurogamer – Games Reviews, News and More”. Eurogamer.net. Retrieved 2009-07-13.
  7. ^ Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (September 1988). “The Role of Computers”. Dragon (137): 88–93.

Okay.

  1. Link 1 is Brian Gazza, a blogger.  He did a great job, though- love the screenshot comparisons but again, there’s no primary sources.  And this can hardly serve as a primary source, though informative.  He is used to source how the game ends and the fact that the game uses radio stations.  These are things that a blogger or anyone who played the game would know and since his website provides clear information confirming this via pictures and good description, this information is useful.
  2. Link 2 is a website for people who are vintage arcade enthusiasts- it provides a lot of technical information but it is hardly a primary source.  It provides basic information that I could obtain by googling the OutRun- actually, less than if I just google it.
  3. A link to an article about the Sega Master System version of the game and how it used 3-D glasses.
  4. Another link to an article about the 3-D glasses.  So we have 2 sources about Sega Masters System and 3-D glasses.  Perfect.  We can confirm that the game used 3-D glasses on Master System.
  5. Arcade-history.com’s description of OutRun essentially is the basis of the whole article.  Much of the description in this wiki is literally a cut and paste job from this website.  The website, however, is only credited with providing the “Pop Culture” reference of a mid-90s commercial about drunk driving (for which they don’t even confirm, show a link to, or have a proper date).  Furthermore, the website article from Arcade-history.com is just a cut and paste job of Chris White & Andrew W. Sharples’s FAQ on OutRun, The Sega OutRun FAQs Version 0.3.  So, we’re looking at a wiki article that quotes information without giving credit to a website that quotes information from an FAQ written in 1998.  Great.
  6. This is just here because Sega Superstars Tennis makes reference to OutRun. Because you know, God forbid we don’t have a source confirming this fact.
  7. This is just here to show and quote a review of the game.  From 1988.

So there’s consequences to this misinformation:

  1. There’s no official wiki page for Hiroshi Kawaguchi (composer) because no one seems to know his name.
  2. There’s a Wikipedia entry for a popular game that many people may be searching with vastly inferior information and tons of unproven speculation.
  3. I’m sure a lot of bloggers are using Wikipedia as a primary source and are completely unaware of the name being incorrect.  This is a shame.

In conclusion, we should toss the wiki out and everyone should just read White and Sharples The Sega OutRun FAQs (http://www.mikesarcade.com/cgi-bin/spies.cgi?action=url&type=info&page=outrunFAQ.txt) which provides 10x as much information as the wiki.  This is basically the primary source.  I would like to edit this wiki to make it actually useful.  I’m willing to bet that someone will instantly argue with me and pound my changes down.  And that someone proves why wiki articles make terrible research vehicles.

About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

8 responses to “Research in Game Music: An example of why Wikipedia is a terrible research vehicle

  • Nic

    Hey mate! Great great blog, insta-subscribed because it’s basically the core of my head (music + games).

    About the post, Wikipedia is always a side-lane source, you can’t take it primary unless you go into quotes (and the source of the information of the article). So yes, I agree.

    Either way, it’s not entirely terrible. It can work as a catalyst for further research, or starting point. If you agree that -source- is the basic concept behind research you won’t stick to Wikipedia at all.

    Cheers!

    • progressivetuba

      Glad you’re enjoying it!

      You’re absolutely right- Wikipedia has a place in research. It’s a great starting point for sure which is why I usually check it first.

      There’s really no “academic” side to video game music at this point so the idea of what someone can accept as a primary source is vague at best. I’ve seen many blog that literally just use the wiki as their primary source… which in most cases is just quoting other blogs. So to actually analyze what is happening in these articles is a necessary evil, I think. And you’re right- anyone looking for primary source material would be in the music library right now combing through thematic catalogs or complete works.

      There’s more to come so I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for stopping by!

      -Steve

  • Doug

    Wikipedia can be problematic, but for regularly edited pages, it has the opposite problem.
    http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2010/12/direct_experience_is_so_overra/

  • Frank Mendez

    Miyauchi is actually Kawaguchi’s maiden name. Apparently, marriage name changing in Japan is way more common than in the Western world, so at last Wikipedia is semi-right (although it should say Kawaguchi, just to be up to date.)

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