Following on from last week’s blog where I was talking about music in games, I had an interesting conversation with Reddit user J96x_Rob_LFC about our thoughts and how differing ways of playing affects how you experience sounds and music in games.
When playing a game like The Witcher 3 he turns down the volume on the background music or turns it off all together. The reason for that is to be immersed in the natural background noise, the wind blowing through the trees, the growls of wolves or monsters, the snapping of twigs or even the snow crunching beneath his feet as he walks along.
J96x_Rob_LFC makes the entirely valid point that this can be an even more immersive experience because you are relying on your own instincts and interpretations of the sounds around you. “Is that a threat, is it to my left or right, how far away is it, is it heading toward me, am I prepared to fight it?” These are the questions running through your mind as you play this way, adding an extra dimension to the Role Play aspect of gaming, where you react and think like the protagonist you are playing would. Which when you are investing in characters and stories is a very desirable thing.
Now obviously this doesn’t work for every game and it will work differently in others. In an FPS like Destiny being able to pick out the footsteps of an incoming enemy so you can turn and kill them before they get you as they sneak up behind is a valuable advantage built into the games sound design that everyone can benefit from but not everyone thinks to use. I’ll admit I sometimes play with the volume way down so I can barely hear the game at all when it’s late at night so I don’t wake anyone up and I realised I actually do a lot worse for it – Something to think about next time you’re playing an online First Person Shooter.
Sound design is something I’ve learned to appreciate more as I’ve gotten older and a little wiser. I’m not knowledgeable enough on the technical aspects of what makes good or bad sound, I don’t know how to adjust levels, treble and bass and all the other stuff; Any good sound engineers will probably be cringing at this point. But with experience I have learned how to distinguish between good quality and poor quality sound be it in car stereos, cinema screens or in games. So while it seems like witchcraft to me, I can appreciate just how much work it takes to design and implement in various mediums and especially games.
J96x_Rob_LFC challenged me to try playing The Witcher 3 with the background music off, so I did. I found it quite the eye opening experience actually. It’s amazing how real the world of The Witcher feels when you play it this way; as much as I enjoy a bit of background music when I play I can see why people enjoy it this way around.
I would highly recommend you try both styles. Take 10 minutes just to mess around with your headphones in and see if you can find a new appreciation for the amazing sound design.
The best thing about doing a blog like this is challenging myself to experience and learn even more about my favourite passion, Gaming. Listening to how other people experience a game and then trying it for myself is really enlightening. It gives me a new found appreciation for yet another aspect that goes into game development. I hope you take the time to try it for yourself!
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