Game culture

How games use audio to challenge us more

Audiosurf screenshot

Infosthetics writes about the game audio-surf a racing game where the song you pick decides the course and speed of the game. This game uses rhythm as an extra navigation layer. Music is build from small loops and these loops are easy to learn and predictable, making it possible to navigate faster because you are using more than just your eyes. You know what will happen before you see it.

Music producers are connecting with the game industry for a while now. Producing game music is a genre by itself. The music gives that extra boost of adrenaline when it’s changing along with the gameplay. The music goes faster or louder. Audio design makes the game more exciting.

The last years we have seen the rise of a new genre of audio games. Where the audio in a game is used as navigation. Guitar Hero became very popular with this. Based on the everybody-can-be-a-popstar culture the game makes it possible for everyone to be a guitar virtuosi. You control the game by learning rhythms and loops using your eyes, ears and fingers.

The follow-up on Guitar Hero is Rock Band, making it possible to play with friends and more instruments. At the same time the developers of one of the most interesting games released for the Playstation Portable; Loco Roco come with a new game titled Patapon. In Patapon you are a tribe navigating and fighting based on the music you make.

Do we need more complex stories?
All these games use audio not primarily to emphasize emotion but to navigate. In Everything Bad is Good for You, Steve Berlin Johnson talks about how movies and television series changed plotlines to keep it interesting for the viewer. He compares old movies (cinematic milestones) with the Sopranos. No matter how good Gilda or Rear Window are. Compared to todays movies and series the are kind of slow and simple.

We need ever more complex stories to be entertained. We are getting used to media. As an example Steve Berlin Johnson uses the Sopranos, the television series combines a story throughout all the seasons, a story through a season, a story through multiple episodes, a story through one episode and all this for different characters as well. This is a story we simply wouldn’t have understand or liked in the fifties or sixties.

Is the same thing happening with games?
We are speeding up games for years. Ask your mother or grandma to watch you playing a game, it’s just too much information for them. They block it and see it as an unorganized chaos and can’t understand what you like about it. At the same time these games aren’t challenging players enough. We need to play faster, use other input devices and gestures for navigating. Our eyes, mind and culture is getting used to the speed. We need more complex games, more stories, elements, control options and speed. We need a bigger challenge.

Is the auditive component helping in this? Is the loop based structure used in music making our games more challenging? Does it allow us to play games at a higher speed? I don’t know this is all just a wild guess, but based on history we know stories and games will only get faster and more complex.

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