Sound Design in Different Video Game Genres

Games are multi-faceted pieces of media that are often a success due to a combination of factors. Gameplay is arguably most important, and how polished that aspect is – but there is also a great deal of emphasis placed on presentation, graphical fidelity, and how well the design comes together. In the midst of this, however, there is also sound design. This is something that a lot of people might not consider when they think about what brings a game together, but the difference in good and bad sound design can make all the difference in a quality game.

Horror Games

This might be the genre where sound design is arguably most important. Horror games are all about tension. If violence, gore, and scares are constantly happening, they lose their edge. They have to be applied selectively, carefully, and with moderation. It’s a careful balance, and this means that there will be a lot of downtime – slack which is picked up by the sound design. Dead Space is a prime example; you find yourself walking around a derelict ship, and while the horrors aren’t on screen, you can hear creaking, shuffling, and noises which could be attributed to the ship moving through Space, or monsters right around the corner.

Casino Games

While it might be a niche genre, it’s interesting to examine what happens to sound design when applied to something that’s replicating a physical environment. While offering a different experience, the games on offer might be opting to recreate similar emotions that you’d find in a real casino. Looking through a list of casino games can give you an idea of the sounds you’d expect to find – a shuffling deck, the laying of cards, the clicking of chips, or the robotic noises of the reel – but it’s about applying these in combination with elements like murmuring crowds, or the clink of glasses, to provide the right environment.

Relaxing Games

A game that’s trying to create a relaxing atmosphere will be about creating a serene environment in that the player can feel calm in. This might be through slower or smoother movements, softer lighting, and comfier colors, and it can also be achieved through music. The sound design in particular is important, though, as the aim here is to reflect what relaxes you in real life. Sounds of birds calling to each other, the slow coming and going of waves, gentle breeze through the trees, all of these have to be deployed selectively – and not too much to avoid creating a cacophony of chaotic noises.

The Topic of Music

Music is a subject that encompasses so many different points of discussion that it’s difficult to be concise about it. However, it’s worth mentioning the ways in which music and sound design can intersect, as you don’t want one to overwhelm the other. When the sound design should be the focus, as in tense moments of horror, music should be muted or ambient, but there are times when the music can be used to complement the sound design – with the two working in perfect harmony. The sound design provides the immersion, and the music provides the atmosphere and setting.


I listen to and write about music!

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