I approach this project overall and the materials that I have collected so far from an ethnographic perspective. This means that I often consider multiple facets concerning geography, cultural representation in video games, and (to some extent) cultural preservation. Concerning the first facet of my work, video game music that uses “Hispanic” or “Latin” elements attempt to depict multiple countries, territories, and regions: from Spanish Flamenco influences in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, to salsa music in more obscure games like the Clockwork Knight platforming games, to the plethora of samba and bossa nova music from Brazil in respective games from both Nintendo and Sega. I have also noticed indigenous Latin American musical depictions through games like Inca and the Sid Meir’s Civilization series. How these cultures and their music get musically represented for public consumption varies. Games from Japan, other areas of Western Europe, and North America tend to apply an exoticist approach to Iberia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. They use etic perspectives from composers outside of the cultures by applying specific “foreign” instruments, syncopated rhythms, or music that represents a certain geographical landscape: most notably, islands and deserts. Some composers, like Konji Kondo, have incorporated Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese music in video game soundtracks because they enjoy listening to these types of music. Other instances can come off as problematic by either accentuating cultural stereotyping or romanticizing European colonial history, as are the cases with the Street Fighter and Uncharted Waters series.
Things have begun to change in recent years. I have noticed a growing necessity within the Iberian, Latin American, and Caribbean gaming communities for greater and better representation beyond character stereotyping. This change is also occurring with video game music. Some composers have tried creating music with more respect to the distinct regions and customs instead of assuming cultural homogeneity (thinking that every culture is the same across the regions). In other instances, I found video game music written by composers from the emic perspectives as cultural insiders. These observations demonstrate a work in progress. I hope to expand on this research in greater detail soon.