In games we predominantly use three of the five senses; sight, hearing and touch. All three are integrated into the game to help immerse you within the experience. We all take the sounds in games for granted but if you think about them they complete the game. People play games on silent and others use surround sound headsets to get fully drawn into the game.
Psychology of Sound
Sound in a game changes the whole effect the sounds have on the player; if you are to remove this element of the game you are taking away any atmosphere or help given via the sound. The ability to hear footsteps or heartbeats alone can sometimes be the best part of the game; while playing a horror the music normally helps set the scene and the volume of the game can change to alert you or heighten the sense.
Horror games use this in almost all its titles; ‘Amnesia: The Dark Descent’ is a recent title that uses sound to create suspense, tension and pure horror. Just running down a dark corridor with a creature stalking you is terrifying on it’s own but when your character is breathing hard, their heartbeat is thumping, the foot steps down an empty corridor as the creature can be heard close by moaning has been turned into one of the most terrifying gaming experiences that you’ll ever come across. This game has taken the horror genre by storm with their great visuals and amazing sound effects.
Sound is a huge part of a game and taking that away changes the feeling of the game, playing without it just has a seriously disorientating feeling where you have no idea what you are meant to feel or do. Some games don’t need sound but they always feel more natural if you can hear the crowds cheering or ambient sounds in the background as you stroll through a town or open landscape.
Sources of Sound
Sound effects within a game have to come from somewhere; some are created via the computer others are recorded from real life objects to create a more real sound.
‘Fallout 3’ is one of the games that benefited from having sounds made by real world items like crisp packets, bullet cases, bottle caps and empty water containers to enhance in game sound effects like foot steps and metallic sounds when bottle caps hit each other in the game. This gives you less modification of the sound compared to a digitally created effect but it gives you a chance to create effects that you would never think of if uses the computer.
Both ways of creating sound effects are viable and both can turn out great. The fact you can record sounds from the real life world and have them fit in with the game they are assigned to would be great, you can still modify the recorded sound once completed so it isn’t limited to sounding out of place, filters can change them into a style for the game. Anything can be turned it to the right sound for the job; if a crisp packet can become footsteps then anything seems possible.
The music inside a game can be a great addition; some games rely on music as the main aspect if you look at rhythm games or some just include them as an extra like radio stations in the GTA series. Other games just use them as backdrops to the places in there world, these usually change as you move from area to area. A town in the game would sound different from the middle of the desert.
‘Sacred 2’ has a different sound for every place in the game and show this off by releasing a CD with the game, they weren’t great themes but really had an effect on the game as you could definitely see the difference as you explored the world. The music within the game was made to relate with the theme, it was slow like the game play.
In comparison games like ‘Brutal Legend’ was using heavy metal to show off the game, this matched the game as it revolved around the main character played by Jack Black. The metal music and over the top sounds gave the game a light hearted feeling as you played.
The music in a game really makes the final product so much better, if you couldn’t ride around vice city mowing civilians down while listening to Michael Jackson the game would never have felt complete, or without the western music in Red Dead Redemption the place wouldn’t of felt like a cowboy’s land.
Sound to me is extremely important while playing a game, so much so i bought a surround sound head set to hear as much of the game as I can, if my sound is interrupted it can really stress me out and ruin the whole experience. Most of the time I play Call of Duty and that to me is all about sound waiting for footsteps to get closer or to hear exactly which way gun shots are coming from. Having the headset also makes all my other games so much more immersive, sounds within the game you would not necessarily hear if you were playing the sound through the screen.
I have played a few games with a lack of sound either due to people talking over it, keeping the volume down or completely turning the sound off. Guitar Hero was one of the games I played without any sound, this game relies on the sound of the songs and you being able to keep track of the beat. The game has all the licensed music and you can’t hear any of it, unless you know the song, it is really disorientating to play without a tune to get used to. You have to create a beat for yourself and hope you have the ability to keep it going yourself.