[-empyre-] Digital Game Sound

George Karalis gsk52 at cornell.edu
Tue Mar 26 01:44:46 EST 2013

Hello all,

I've enjoyed following this month's discussions, and appreciate the
opportunity to make a guest appearance. I am fresher to this field
than the rest of you (a newb, indeed), but I hope this may provide a
fresh perspective as well. At Cornell I have been oscillating between
the theoretical issues of gaming, such as those addressed here this
month, and the nuts and bolts of game design and programming.

I would first like to raise a discussion around the role of sound in
digital games.

User studies show that sound provides extra information to players and
makes them feel more immersed in the game environment. Yet, research
into game sound does not extend too far beyond that. Sound in games
(like that in film) has remained adjunct to visuals. Even so-called
music games like Guitar Hero hinge on visual feedback and merely
employ a musical setting. Likewise, game sound technology and
development tools are rudimentary compared to those for graphics.

I have taken a relatively practical approach to this issue with my
current game project Square Waves (square-waves.com), attempting to
develop from the ground up a game that foremost considers sound. This
research quickly led me into "audio games," sound-only games developed
primarily for blind and visually-impaired audiences. (Hence, I refer
to digital games broadly, as opposed to using the more common yet
exclusive term "video game.")

Audio games, despite their history and persistence, have remained
tucked away--practically unknown outside of their small niche. They
have traditionally been low/no-budget productions from solo developers
and hobbyists, though recently a few indie operations have released
titles with higher production value geared toward larger audiences. A
couple of examples to check out are Papa Sangre (www.papasangre.com)
and BlindSide (www.blindsidegame.com).

To tie these concepts in with previous discussions, we may consider
the relation of audio games to countergaming. To what extent can
removing (or displacing) graphics in digital games defuse the "armed
vision" and other militaristic associations that have been noted
earlier this month? Could audio games change players' perceptual
perspectives to deepen not only their experience with the game world
but also with physical reality?

I'll stop with this broad sketch, as I am not sure in which direction
the discussion will go. I am very interested to hear your thoughts
throughout this week.



George Karalis
Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences
College Scholar Class of 2013
gsk52 at cornell.edu

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