How important is the audio experience in gaming? - Elgarta Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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How important is the audio experience in gaming?

Audio. Something that has made it's way into many of our favorite past times. Driving a car around aimlessly? Why not turn on the radio/load an 8 track into the player! Watching a movie? You can't not have any sound go with the events onscreen! (Even silent films had music playing in the theatres). Want to sit around at the Mall's food court while waiting for single women to sit down so you can make your move? Well, listen to the faded music playing over the 20 year old speaker systems and see if you can guess the song that is playing.

My point is that audio is a big part of any experience, whether it is working out at the Gym, listening to your iPod on the bus or even playing video games. It should not come as a surprise that audio is considered fairly important to a good gaming session, but we have different types of audio that are part of the experience:

 

  • The music that will play during gameplay, or a gripping movie sequence.
  • Sound effects, ranging from the Atari explosions to the satisfying sound of your gunshot in Call of Duty
  • Voice Acting, whether it is good or bad

I know there are people who don't care for all 3 of these things, and others who cannot play a game without it offering all of these. But what is it about audio that makes gaming so important?

Personally, I find that even if a game has terrible voice acting or music in it, I cannot make myself turn off the speakers/remove my headset and continue. It just makes me feel like I am removing myself from the game as a whole, even if I can read/watch what is going on just fine. I know this is something people can do. My other half is content with turning off the sound while she plays a game, and it just baffles me. Even if the sound is on, she doesn't seem to pay attention to it anyway. But, she does notice it if I play a game, and will often comment on how hearing certain tunes is just annoying (Christmas music from Blue Stinger for example).

It might have alot to do with the fact that I am a big RPG fan. Japanese RPGs especially are very well known for musical scores playing in the background, which can vary in quality. Ever since I first popped in my copy of Secret of Mana, I started to appreciate music in games and found that I couldn't even load up an old master system cartridge without making myself soak in the chip-tunes that played, even if they were not very good. In fact, it made me no longer be able to stand playing the ports of Duke Nukem 3D or Doom/Doom 2 that had cut the soundtrack for whatever reason. The music became as important to me as the gameplay itself.

There are even game music composers who have reached high levels of fame based on their musical creations alone, much like your every-day pop idol. Names like Nobuo Uematsu, Koichi Sugiyama and even Harry Gregson Williams are big amongst fans of game music. Maybe not Lady Ga-Ga big, but big nonetheless.

Now I talk about my enjoyment of music more than I talk about my love of sound-effects and voices, but that is just a product of my gaming experiences. If I like a piece of music from a game, I can download it and pop it onto my Mp3 player, and remember the great times I shared with the game. If I like someones voice or the particular sound of a gunshot, it'd be weird for me to sit back and listen to a line of dialogue or a pistol firing on repeat. I still appreciate them, but it's an appreciation that sticks to me while I am playing a game.

What are your thoughts? Is there any specific aspect of the audio experience you prefer, or do you just turn off the sound while you play a game since you don't care? Feel free to share your thoughts.

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