Sound design guidance as a contribution towards the empowerment of indie game developers



Currently, expertise in sound design in games is mostly tacit and held by senior professionals, who are not numerous and who typically work for resourceful teams that are able to afford them. Indie game developers, usually working with low resources, often have to cope with lack of expertise in sound design.
We propose to provide guidance for the empowerment of non-expert practitioners to perform sound design in games, assuming the impracticality of integrating sound design experts in their teams. This empowerment also implies leveraging the literacy in this specific domain, hence providing abilities to communicate and participate in the conception of possible explorations. Such abilities could also be beneficial to the broader audience of game developers, where it could create the conditions for expert sound designers to be invited more regularly and earlier into game projects.
Our proposal is composed of several contributions. First, we present an operative adherence to a holistic practice of sound design, embedded in game design, in which the exploration of sound is performed in the early phases of ideation and addressed by its purposefulness to the game experience. Then, we present an initial set of design guidelines for sound design in games, which include multidisciplinary concepts and insights. Our observation of game design practitioners using these guidelines led us to also propose a lower-level of guidance: a pattern language for sound design in games, representing recurrent sound explorations found in games of recognized quality. In its current state, version 2.0, the pattern language consists of a network of 81 candidate design patterns, publicly available through the wiki We also present a deck of cards for sound design in games, which was originally developed for research purposes as way to audit the participation of the patterns during design phenomena, but which eventually evolved into an end-user interface with the pattern language.
Through experimentation, we gathered indicators that the proposed guidance can empower non-expert practitioners. The experiments also informed revisions to the proposals and contributed to refine our understanding of the research problem. We conclude this dissertation by presenting the conditions that we have been developing to open the body of knowledge to the community of practice, for discussion and appropriation.


Acoustic ecology, Deck of cards, Design guidelines, Design patterns, Empowerment, Game audio, Game design, Independent video game development, Indie games, Pattern languages, Small game developers, Sound design in games


Human-Computer Interaction

PhD Thesis

Sound design guidance as a contribution towards the empowerment of indie game developers, May 2013


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