Functions and Meanings of Sound in Video Games

Video games aren’t just a passing hobby, for many people, they are a lifestyle. These games offer people a way to get competitive, be social with other gamers in online platforms, push their own skills, improve reflexes and memory, and escape from everyday stresses. And while there are thousands of games to choose from out there, gamers typically have a small number that are their true favourites, which they keep coming back to. But what makes a game their “favourite”?

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Creating the ideal game is so much more than just the graphics. Another aspect that plays a huge role in how successful the game actually is are the sounds – from sound effects to background music, and even characters speaking. But what are the functions and meanings behind the sound in video games? Let’s peel back the layers and examine just what role sound plays.

Sound Can Help to Create the Premise of the Game

There are plenty of video games that really use sound to help set the tone, mood, and atmosphere, but then there are those that rely on sound to create the entire premise of the game. A great example of this is the wildly popular game Guitar Hero, which dropped back in November 2005. Nobody could have predicted, let alone the game developers and musicians involved in the making of the game, the frenzy this game would create. As well, they likely wouldn’t have guessed that more than 15 years later it’s still a favourite game for many out there.

It was just this past November that the game celebrated its 15 year anniversary, and has embraced the fact it’s more than just a game. It has helped to introduce people to classic and incredible music, and completely transformed how players actually interact with games and the music within them.

It Comes Down to the Psychology of Sound

When looking at the meaning behind the sounds that are chosen in a game and when and where they are used it really comes down to the basic psychology of sound. Sound can be used to give a player energy and provide them with a boost, it can help to create mystery and drama, it can add fear to a rather scary moment in a game, or just help to relax the player. 

A game without sound just won’t have the same effect, and likely won’t have the same appeal. There is nothing to drive the story forward or the gameplay itself. For some games the sound is actually part of the gameplay, meaning those sounds are necessary. Take a look at all the online casino games, which are incredibly popular. Without the sounds you hear when you hit the jackpot or win, it is just not the same experience at all.

Creating an Immersive Environment

Finally, there is the fact that sound can help to create a much more immersive environment, one that is authentic and realistic. 

Let’s say you are playing a traditional RPG style game, which you can find the definition for on this site: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/27052/role-playing-game-rpg. Now imagine you are walking around a particular environment or setting in the game. The very sounds you hear help to create a more realistic vibe, such as picking up items to use, opening and closing doors, driving a car, using a weapon, the list goes on and on. The sounds help to make it feel real, which creates excitement and intrigue, and can help to land it on the must-play list.

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Playing an Essential Role

At the end of the day, sounds aren’t just an after-thought in video games – they help to create the storyline, move the game forward, and draw the player in.

Written by

As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.