I'm from Australia and, as such, feel so far from everything.
An honours grad with a Bachelor of Media & a Bachelor of Communications. With way too much time on my hands.
I game for fun, not for achievements, not for prestige just for the enjoyment. While I like a challenge at the end of the day, to me, gaming is like music. Rather fantastic, but not always practical. I do understand that it is one hell of a massive (and rapidly growing) industry.
Examples of my favourite games are things like: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Grim Fandango, Monkey Island, Hitman, Deus Ex, Braid, Diablo, Fallout, GTA: Vice City, Max Payne, The Neverhood, Outlaws, Resident Evil, Portal, Wolfenstein, Sam & Max, Silent Hill 2, Tekken, Splinter Cell, Transformers.
There have been many games with emphasis on the aural senses. Any of the music games to start off with: Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Frets On Fire - all the way to Audiosurf. How many people hear the "Wololo" and get the Age of Empire nostalgia? Who here still remembers "Do a barrel roll!"? All the while can you still connect with Link while he never talks?
Please note, I really wanted to use a 'Kinect' gag there but, alas, t'was not to be.
Sound, either music, effects or silence can change the atmosphere of any medium. But in video games where the 'interaction' is supposedly different it could be argued that it doesn't play such an important role. I disagree. I believe sound, especially in such an individualized and personal space has a much greater part to play in the experience.
One of the first games I remember adoring the soundtrack for was The Neverhood. The wacky whistling in the demo made me want that to play the game even more. I still burst out into the song on the occasion even now. Hopefully people will agree that Terry S. Taylor did an amazing job - one of the finest soundtracks, game or otherwise. Simply it was just that creative and out there to fit the style of the game and helped draw you in.
Unreal Tournament with the announcer helped suck you into that multiplayer. Everyone loved to hear "Mega Kill, Ultra Kill, M-M-Monster Kill, Godlike (Ludicrous), Holy Shit, Unpossible!" when playing. It screamed utter domination to all those around you. But all of these sounds and memories can apply to media you could say.
So why is gaming so special? Have you bought many game soundtracks recently - for the most part I'm going to guess not. Because games like Grim Fandango, Bioshock, Total Annihilation, Tony Hawk's, Grand Theft Auto (Vice City baby!), Mario Galaxy, Monkey Island, Stubbs The Zombie, Red Dead Redemption, Little Big Planet, Afro Samurai, Brutal Legend, Warcraft, Starcraft....I could go on forever and give games with amazing soundtracks.
But gaming, doesn't solely rely on soundtracks. It relies on effects, noises, clips and shorts. The guns firing. The voice acting. The footsteps. The echoes. The lights flickering. The silence.
For games like Silent Hill (SH 2 being the best by far), Dead Space, Fatal Frame, Clock Tower, Alone In The Dark, Eternal Darkness and, of course, Resident Evil suspense and immersion is critical. And these games can use the most effective tool of any game. Silence.
Put your cursor above the play button on the video below. I want you to close your eyes, click play and listen to this. Don't think about anything else but your ears and the sound. I promise I won't get a random screaming in your head.
I would imagine most of you would think of one of two things: 28 Days Later, or more recently, Kick-Ass.
Now you may be riding down in Mexico on your horse. Red Dead Redemption style. Maybe shooting a bird or two on the way.
Hopefully now you're back in Silent Hill.
This set shows that music can generate different situations, even without visuals. Either steady raise in tension, a distant journey or slow reflection they all have purpose. I'm not going to link to a track of silence. I would like you to sit there, take off the headphones, turn off as much as you can and sit there. Silent. Quiet. And listen. The air moving? Cars going by? All generate your current situation and your immersion in your environment.
Remember headcrabs? Ravenholm? The recharge of your shield? The shuffling of spiders? The scream from a dungeon? The barking of a robot? The barking of a dogwood?Half-Life, Halo, Zelda, Diablo, Machinarium, Kings Quest - all these games remind me of something.
You may have noticed that I've tried to keep the text to a minimum. Because it's audio that we're on today. Not writing. Silly rabbit.
While my points may seem to have jumped over the last paragraphs they all lead to one bigger argument. Since your time reading this have you thought about a set sound, a musical track (other than those that have been played) leading to a memory, experience, nostalgic flashback?
Then whatever it was, it succeeded. Because the sound has stuck with you. Even if there is no noise. The sound has brought something to you, emotion, feeling - doesn't matter. It played it's part in getting to you. Close your eyes for a second and now think about how sound can change almost anything to, well, everything.