What will the player experience of computer game sound be in the future?
This was the question posed in an online discussion forum to which the book’s contributors were invited to respond. What follows is a free-wheeling debate about the future of game sound. Little editing has been done, other than the most obvious grammar, syntax and spelling errors, in order to maintain the fresh, often off-the-cuff responses.
Three related themes become apparent in this discussion: affect, emotion and biofeedback; realism versus alternative realities; and the need for a game-sound design aesthetics. The first opens up interesting possibilities for enhanced player interaction (including player-player interaction across networked games) and immersion. Although authors and games companies often talk about the player being immersed in the gameworld, it is clear that current technology only hints at the potential. Similarly, games companies often praise the realism of their game sounds: even the iconic sound of Atari’s Pong of the early 1970s had its synthetic tones described as “realistic”. But which realism is being alluded to? What precisely does this Holy Grail of realism represent and how should it be attained? Is it the authenticity of sound that contributes to game realism or its verisimilitude in the context? If the latter, does realism derive from expectation, culture and genre and what debt does it owe to other forms of media? If realism refers to an emulation of reality, do we mean social realism, thematic realism, consequential or physical realism and who wants to play reality anyway? These questions directly relate to the need for a game sound design language: something that is still nascent. Game sound involves a very different paradigm to the derivation and perception of sound as found in reality or any other form of recreational medium. Like real-world environments, game sound derives from the actions of and upon its entities but it is triggered from a different rather than issuing directly from those entities. Unlike cinema, games require the willing and active participation of the player to effect the game and its sound. Whatever the future holds, it is clear that we have only begun to discover the possibilities inherent in computer game sound.


Audio, Computer games, Game audio, Game sound, Game sound design, Sound, Sound design


Human-Computer Interaction

Book Chapter

Game sound technology and player interaction: Concepts and developments, Appendix, pp. 416-426, IGI Global, October 2011

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