Does Sound Matter for Gaming?
By Rachel Cruz
With the rise in popularity of PVP / Battle Royale-style games, the ability to create a realistic environment that makes you believe you are truly “in” the experience is key to the success of these experiences.
It’s what makes playing the game fun.
It’s also what makes you better at playing a game.
While audio has been considered important by game designers and developers, most creative technologists agree that there’s still a lot of untapped potential when it comes to how audio is used in games to immerse the player in an experience and also how it affects game play from the gamer’s POV. For example, audio cues provide information about access points into and out of virtual worlds. They also provide feedback about the success or failure of an attempt to attack or overcome. All this occurs, against a backdrop of a musical score, that’s also designed to elicit a huge range of emotional responses – from fear and aggression to joy – in the same experience.
Traditionally, games shipped with a stereo soundtrack, but today, many games generally include immersive, interactive audio over 5.1 or 7.1 multi-channel surround sound. PC gamers play with full surround speaker setups or with headphones to create a surround experience. With the rollout of the Microsoft Windows Spatial Audio platform even game developers and designers are adding more elements like height and audio objects to the soundscape. And that’s only a few considerations from the game-side.
From the players POV, an article from Psychology Today reported that the best gamers used sound as a competitive advantage, not just because they paid better attention to audio cues in games versus average players, but also because they were able to, “meaningfully integrate audio and video cues [more] effectively,” than average players1.
Taken together, we’ve probably just started to scratch the surface how to use audio to its best effect in games. If audio can make you better, can it also make the experiences more fun? Can it make the game more engaging or emotionally rewarding?
It’s probably a lot to ask from one sensory system, but we’re planning to explore those questions (and more) here.
Welcome to the conversation!
1. Tan SL, Video Games: Do You Play Better With the Sound On or Off? The Role of Music and Sound Effects in Video Games. Psychology Today, Feb 5, 2014.