Category Archives: Bittunes

Audio: The True Hero In All Video Games?

The effect of video, images and all kinds of visual landscapes on our minds, are very vivid, and we commonly highlight the concept that a picture tells 1000 words – Indeed! But, why don’t we add the dimensional layer of Audio, that not only allows you to vividly visualise something with your eyes, but also being effected in an audible way to which heightens our senses, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, creates tension and abruptly affects our reactions.

Video Games have endured a long journey from its early developments in the 8-bit Era (Third-generation consoles) 1972–1988 where simple, retro, chiptune electronic sounds from consoles such as Famicom/Nintendo (NES), Sega & Atari would be created for popular games like Pong! & Space Invaders in their super early developments with                        “one pulse sounds” and no background sounds. Its not until 1985 with games such as Super Mario Bros. when rhythmic strings of sounds and musical compositions would be created to provide aural clues in relation to the gameplay, where most commonly the music would gradually rise in tempo to induce a reaction in the user that time is essentially running out!

Throughout the 16, 32 & Early 64-bit Eras, musical compositions which were relative to the current setting of the gameplay would be created originally for those video games only. Where electronic music producers would create an album of soundtracks for entire games as they allowed for a larger amount of storage on Compact Disc (CDs).

It’s not until the 6th Generation gaming and onwards where sound design and audio within Video Games have become a collection and creative recipe of all variants of it’s predecessors. If you can, picture (aurally), soundscapes and sound design which create an urge in the user to feel emotion or react to sound in a way that effects their gameplay. The Metal Gear Solid Series is an excellent example of this,  where the gameplay soundtrack seamlessly mix into high-tense environments and then to more calming scenes where the user is safe in their current environment. Along with all Foley, Background, found sound design, the entire experience covers a range of depth, with viciously noticeable sounds in the foreground and the more subtle elements which create the atmosphere but aren’t necessarily always noticeable.

Without these complimentary aural senses the user is almost playing the entire video game blind. As their reactions to the challenges within the game assist to solve the obstacles the video game possesses. Essentially, sound design is the true reality behind what you see with your eyes, must also be seen with your ears.

The aim and “end game” for my research is to highlight how video games use audio in a creative and most interesting way to induce a reaction from the gamer – (And I’m not talking about Dance Dance Revolution, or Guitar Hero variants) The search for “clever use” of audio in video games is very limited, which I believe will be a challenge in itself. However, exploring tangents of this idea of “Audio Effect/Driven Video Games” will be something I have to explore further and then hopefully narrow down from there.

The Search continues – any ideas will be kindly appreciated

– Dan