A New Era for Sound Design and Music: Video Games


A New Era for Sound Design and Music: Video Games. Article by Tim Vasilakis.

There’s a new market for music production emerging stronger than ever before with increasing sales volume by the year. That is the video games market. Having it’s origins in the early 1970’s, video games have changed and continue to change rapidly. The games industry is a place where creativity and technology merge with a constant drive to raise the bar higher. The expectations for audio have never been higher. The Game Audio Industry has emerged from the video game industry and is connected with the music industry in general.

The video games industry has always been successful, but especially the last decades it has become one of the most common choices of entertainment for kids and adults. Some people say that the games industry is the new Hollywood or even the New Jazz. An impressive 75% of household in the United Kingdom alone play computer games. As technology progresses video games become more and more like films, only better. And the reason for that is because they are interactive.

One of the most important elements in video games is audio. Game Audio refers to the sound effects, music and dialog that are placed in video games. Audio is a huge part of the story telling and fun factor for games. From the beginning it was an important, interactive element in the gameplay. At first it only gave the player the notion of success or loss.

Video games were always treated as an art form. As a matter of fact, many early companies would treat their team as artists highlighting their work by giving them proper credit on the end product. It was a rapidly growing industry.

Computer graphics and audio have developed hand in hand as multimedia and computers evolved. The more sophisticated games became, next generation audio was needed to enhance the development of the gaming experience. Music and sound design have come a long way, and have always been directly influenced by technology. The evolution of games and game audio has been so immense and within just 20 years it has hugely transformed from simple midi-sounding music themes, to complicated orchestral music scoring and futuristic sound design.

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The art of video games has been evolving non-stop in the last three decades. It has absorbed into modern culture and it is the number one entertainment choice for the 21st century. There are numerous game development studios around the world. Countries like the US, UK, Germany and Japan account for the largest part of games production.

Early video games music was exclusively developed by the engineers themselves, and it was rather simple. As technology evolved, it had its impact on technology and animation,therefore high quality audio became a necessity. Back in the day, the only way to embed sound into a game was by directly programming it into the computer chips. Therefore early video games musicians were required to program those sound chips and transcribe their music into the hardware. Musicians always needed to stay on top of technological advances.

The rapid evolution of games and improved game consoles made it possible for music and sound in general to be created outside the game development and then later to be embedded into the game. Very much like the film and television industries. Furthermore and considering the interactive nature of a game it required musicians and sound designers to create content that would be completely influenced by the user’s actions. Therefore the sound continuously evolves or adapts as the game progresses, which directly enhances the interactivity of the game. This is what’s called interactive or adaptive sound.

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The need for video game sound and music is on the rise. Game music is sold as soundtracks, and symphonic orchestras or live bands are part of the recording and performance. It is an exciting time to that people are open to all kinds of music.

In todays video game market there is a constant demand for high quality music, sound design and voice. From orchestral scores, to intense electronica, and absolutely everything in between. Musicians and sound designers work in house for developers and publishers. Most game companies have their own audio department, where the audio is actually produced. In other cases music production and most of the time dialog is outsourced to independent composers, sound designers or studios who provide their services on a project by project basis. No matter what platform or how advanced the game is there is always a need for composers, musicians, sound designers and audio engineers to create audio that drives the game and enhances the player experience.

Jeff Schmidt Sound Design/Music Demo [PROTOTYPE] from Jeff Schmidt on Vimeo.

The demand for high end music, sound design and voice for games is bound to increase. As mobile technology evolves rapidly and mobile gaming becomes more and more sophisticated, there is a whole new market opening up with tablets and smart phones, while console games are becoming more interactive than ever before, and in some cases the user is the controller. The new era of sound design, interactive audio and music is here to stay.

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