What is sound?

One of the primary ways to convey meaning across all media is music, music can be used to set the mood of a scene, to encourage us to feel all sorts of emotions, such as joy, fear or anger. Even the lack of music is an effect of music, sudden silence can covey drama and importance and has a lot of impact if the music is cut off suddenly. Gaming and film use music almost constantly and to great effect, however the way it is used is quite different. In film music is much more straightforward, the audience is always meant to feel a certain way at a certain time, and music can be planned out perfectly to affect the audiences emotions and interpretations. In gaming however the events are almost always completely dynamic, meaning music has to take a broader approach, for example in a life or death fight the music will always be intense to reflect the fight, however the music will almost always remain the same whether you are winning the fight flawlessly, about to lose or even having a great comeback as the game has a harder time knowing what the audience is meant to be feeling, unlike film where it is always known what the audience is meant to be feeling and what they see. However in lieu of music some games employ design effects to let you know when you are near death to have a similar effect of more intense music, Pokémon is a good example of a game which used to use constant high-pitched bleeps as design effects over the music when your Pokémon was near to fainting, however recently they have made music tracks entirely dedicated to this scenario (first example below). They also have a similar theme for when the player is approaching victory, (second example below) though both of these themes are relatively broad compared to films use of music. As time goes on more games will likely have music dynamically adapt to your situation, however this process is far more difficult than film’s use of predetermined music.In the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer (third example below) uses music heavily, in the first scene of the trailer dramatic tension is built though the music, which is suddenly dropped when the scene becomes more comedic, this is an example of how sound in films always have an intended effect and are far more effective for it, as opposed to game music which may have to adapt to the player and be more general because of this.

Low health music begins at 1:00

Nearing victory music begins at 2:00

The use of voice as a type of sound is different in gaming than it is in TV, film and radio, dialogue in gaming is often use in more of a guiding fashion and in certain games can even be altered based on choices unlike in other media. For example a character in a game might tell the player to go to a certain location and then tell them how to get there, this type of guidance may be used in other media such as TV , but it would be used to different effect, it might be to convey that the character is unfamiliar with the place or it might foreshadow certain events depending on the information given and often TV shows will cut straight to the new location. In games however it is often the case that you will have to travel by yourself to new locations so the dialogue is used much more informatively rather than just to set up the next scene. In certain games dialogue with NPCs can be used, mostly optionally, to establish the lore of the world if the character wishes to know more, but can often be skipped over if the player is not interested. In TV the audience will be fed certain information about the world as it is relevant, whether or not they are interested. Due to the fact the audience does not have a choice in whether or not they are fed this information TV shows will often not go too in depth about the world’s background, however in games the player can request more knowledge from NPCs, allowing this medium much more flexibility in the way they establish lore and how much information about the world is given.

Ambiance is used in gaming, film, TV and radio, though it is used slightly differently among all of them. In gaming ambiance will likely be unobtrusive, something subtle to add to a scene, such as the occasional rustle of leaves or chirp of a bird, however in radio dramas sounds carry far more weight and ambiance must be used to establish and maintain a sense of location, this is done by hard effects such as footsteps and door sounds to indicate movement and then continuous ambiance to establish location (if the characters don’t outright say where they are), this can be the sound of crowds of people in the background, the sound of a waterfall or a fireplace. These sounds are more intrusive than in gaming, however they will never unintentionally take more of the listener’s focus than the main characters. In gaming ambiance is often related to nearby sources of sound in the game world such as pedestrians, meaning different ambiances can be used to convey scenes much more dynamically than in radio, for example a character walking through a park will likely hear sounds of nature, but as they continue they may hear other people in the park as they approach the player. In radio it will likely be predetermined whether or not the park is busy and will not change unless the scene prompts the change as too many changing pieces of ambiance can be confusing in radio where information is only convey via sound, whereas in gaming you have visuals to give context to what you are hearing.

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