A video game engages two of our senses to the hilt, three if you count touch. But the two most important ways in which people interact with video games are – through sight and through sound.
The visuals form the core of the video game, as the computer screen is the medium through which most video games today are run. But as the days go by, audio has increased enormously in importance. This means that audio studios, with their engineers and producers, have as big a role in game design as the graphic designers.
There are many gamers who find it extremely difficult to play with the sound off. The key to understanding this phenomenon lies in the fact that ears can’t be closed. An audio cue will reach the ears no matter what, and does not need to be actively “listened to” – unlike visuals, which must be actively “seen”.
Certain games, of course, become identifiable by their signature audio. Max Payne 2 became famous for the “Late Goodbye” track, which is also one of the highlights of band Poets of the Fall. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a fantasy game that is as famous for its epic soundtrack as its stunning visuals. The famous Vice City, too, has audio and a soundtrack that makes for an incredibly realistic viewing experience.
My personal hunch is that soon, voice commands will become extremely common in gameplay – whether on gaming platforms such as the PlayStation, Wii and XBox 360 or on computers. Tom Clancy’s “Endwar” is one such game that already supports this, and many more are in the pipeline.
Creating the audio for games, though, has its own challenges. Games run in an alternative, fantasy world where rules of reality do not apply. The goal of game audio is to generate an aural universe where the gamer is completely immersed in the alternative world. It is the audio studio’s job to ensure that the soundtrack complements the mood of the game perfectly, and in each and every situation.
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