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naia-the-gamer avatar 8:33 PM on 03.06.2008  (server time)
The importance of Audio (AKA Patapon sucks on mute)

(I would have had a picture, but it's being stupid)

I've been stuck dealing with the trials (pun intended) and tribulations of jury duty in Los
Angeles, CA. I was actually summoned today and sat around for a torturous 7 and a half
hours before they let me go home. I brought my DS ad PSP to keep me entertained but I
forgot to bring earbuds. I decided to experiment and see how well I could play Patapon
without the sound. I hoped that my musical background would help me keep a good beat.
It worked most of the time, but I felt really stupid hitting random buttons in intervals. The
game lost a lot on mute.

I know it's easy to mute a video game while playing it, but I couldn't help think about that
today (anything to avoid thinking about being on jury duty). The game could not work
without the audio and I think that's pretty neat. Music and sound design can really add the
immersiveness of a game when it is good, but can deter when its bad. It's a dangerous
thing; lousy visuals can be overlooked with stellar gameplay or a great story, but bad
sound is bad sound. The result is me turning down the volume. The further implication is
to not even bother turning it up after hearing so much bad audio (like me). I think players
end up missing part of the gameplay experience.

I first discovered this when I played Dragon Quest 8. The guys at Squenix put in live
orchestra for the music instead of the shitty-ass MIDI that Japanese composers seem to get
stuck using for the US version. The demo did not have this and after playing the demo
and the game back to back I was blown away. The real players added so much more for
me and I enjoyed the game more for it. Bioshock is another one of those games that loses
out without the audio (I've watched Zero play it, no I haven't started yet. Don't spoil it for
me). Finally the live orchestra for some of the tracks for Super Mario Galaxy really helped
capture the whimsy that game has. Although I must admit that I can easily hear the tracks
that are MIDI.

So this has turned into somewhat rambling but the point I'm trying to make is that it's very
easy to forget about video game audio. Sure the bad audio can be horrid, but sometimes
the good can really enhance the experience, sometimes making it essential.

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