Video games are an ever-growing part of our world. As the industry develops the quality and standards of video games are rapidly improving, becoming evermore immersive experiences for players. There are many factors that contribute to these enhanced environments. Sound is one of them. To understand the true importance of sound in video games, we spoke to Shivam Devani, a 3D artist and he told us his thoughts on sound and its impact on video games.
Blog team: Can you start by introducing yourself and tell us about your relationship with the gaming world?
Shivam: I am a 3D artist and a gamer. I have been working in the games industry utilising many different gaming platforms.
For as long as I can remember I have been a huge fan of games and movies. It was this passion that led me to pursue a job in the games industry. I initially enjoyed the design aspect of creating games. However, then found myself becoming really interested in the graphical art side of the industry. My interest in video games themselves started when my grandmother kindly gifted me a PlayStation 1 as a child. Since then I have always been fascinated and captivated by the stories and worlds that are brought to us in each game.
Blog team: What is one of your favourite gaming soundtracks?
Shivam: Choosing one soundtrack would be very difficult for me because there have been so many gaming soundtracks that have resonated with me. However, a soundtrack from a recently released game that stands out to me is the soundtrack from ‘Days Gone’. It was the soundtrack that grabbed my interest and influenced my decision to buy the game. I feel as though this soundtrack is something I can listen to on repeat as it is calming, yet perfectly sells the story of the game.
Blog team: What do you think is the general importance of sound in games?
Shivam: Sound is vital for most forms of digital entertainment. Without sound, there is only half an atmosphere. Have you ever watched a horror film with the volume on really low? It’s really underwhelming when something happens and you don’t feel the same way that the creator of whatever it is you are watching or playing intended for you to feel. A large amount of the time, the music sets the speed and mood for the encounter that the player is experiencing. A fast tempo track gives that sense of urgency to the player whereas a slow and soft track would give the player that sense of peace in their given position. The music directs their emotions towards what the developer wants them to feel at that given moment. It is a piece of art that is purposefully planned to give the user the best possible experience.
Is gaming sound taken for granted?
Blog team: When games are reviewed it’s often on gameplay, graphics, and story. The work surrounding sound, such as soundtracks and sound effects, is rarely mentioned. Why do you think these aspects of the creation are overlooked/taken for granted by the critics and players?
Shivam: When a game is marketed, I would say that the emphasis is often on the visuals, storytelling, and gameplay as a large amount of the players are invested in these aspects. It is these factors that are commonly recognised as determining the reviews. However, even though the soundtrack is not at the forefront, I would say that both the sound effects and the soundtrack for the game create a large amount of the overall atmosphere for the story. It is the music that pulls you into the world that the game is trying to show you. Essentially, it is the sound that really creates a large amount of the emotion that one feels when playing a game.
Blog team: Does the music have any influence on your work, such as style or other aspects?
Shivam: Absolutely. Speaking about my personal work here, it definitely does inspire me. Often I will listen to music and that will inspire me to sit down and create a bit of 3D graphical art that suits the music I am listening to. For example, listening to a movie soundtrack does motivate me to create a piece of art that could relate to the film.
Soundtracks vs playlists in games
Blog team: In games such as the FIFA and Tony Hawk’s Skater series the soundtrack consists of playlists. Why do think this technique is used compared to creating an original soundtrack like those seen in the Halo series or Elder Scrolls? What can the two different methods of adding game music tell us about the game itself?
Shivam: To me, the most significant difference between games with original soundtracks and games with soundtracks consisting of playlists is the emphasis placed on the storyline. Games like the Halo series and Elder Scrolls are story-based and the player’s engagement with the game depends on the atmosphere being sustained consistently throughout the entire story. I feel that it is the use of original soundtracks that makes the game immersive and sustains interest in the storyline as it unfolds. It is the music that dictates the atmosphere within the game and acts to link each aspect of the playing experience into a cohesive narrative.
“…music that dictates the atmosphere within the game and acts to link each aspect…”
The use of soundtracks consisting of playlists for games such as the FIFA and Tony Hawk’s Skater series can suggest that the game places less emphasis on a continually unfolding storyline. But that is not to say that an original soundtrack does not work for these kinds of games as many minigame based games that are out there utilise their own soundtrack to create familiarity with the player, especially if the game title has multiple in the series.
Sound online vs offline gameplay
Blog team: Would you say that original soundtracks are more important for multiplayer or single-player games?
Shivam: I wouldn’t say that one is more important, but I would say that single-player does tend to have more story-driven games, which one could argue it would be more important for. However, at the same time, original soundtracks have been used all over the place for multiplayer games. Games like Blizzard’s ‘Overwatch’ have intertwined a story into their multiplayer competitive game and have not only created their own title track but have also created music for each and every different map that players come across, which further immerses the players into these worlds.
Whilst some would consider these sorts of things small features, I would say that all of these small features build up and create the environment and feeling that the developers want you to feel. It sells the setting. I would definitely say that this is consistent for both single-player and multiplayer games.
Blog team: What do you think it is about gaming that has made it one of today’s major industries? And if you had to play only one game for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Shivam: I think there are many reasons as to why the gaming industry has grown. Games offer a diverse range of experiences with something for everyone. We can live like a cowboy in the American West, delve into fantastical worlds filled with mythical creatures, we can jump into a sci-fi suit to fight off a world threat lurking in space or even face off against other players to prove who is truly best in multiplayer competitive games. There is so much we can do. So many games exist and that’s the beauty of it.
“The great thing about games is that we can all escape reality and jump into a new world…”
Sometimes it is great to drop reality and jump into an alternative life. We all have problems in our lives and sometimes the great thing about games is that we can all escape reality and jump into a new world where there is excitement past every corner. There is so much diversity out there when it comes to what you can play that there is almost a game that you can enjoy for every mood.
If I had to play one game for the rest of my life, I would say Dota 2. I currently don’t play this game as much as I used to however it still holds itself up there in my books as one of my favourite games that I have played. Even though you only play on one map consistently, you have almost an infinite amount of possibilities when it comes to the characters that your team and your opponent will play which makes each game its own experience. I really enjoy competitive gaming the most which is probably why this is one of my favourite games of all time.
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Rhythmic gaming and their future
Blog team: Some games are known as rhythmic games, such as Guitar Hero, Rhythm Heaven Fever, SingStar focus their entire gameplay around the sound. However, they are often known for their repetitive gameplay. Do you think more can be done with this gaming format? Perhaps a cross-over with roleplaying games (perhaps Zelda series’ use of musical instruments is scratching the top of the surface)?
Shivam: There is a lot more that can be done with this gaming format. Party/family and friend games nowadays are very minigame-oriented. The developers have the ability to design and create so many new minigame ideas for everyone to enjoy. Sound can most definitely be a key mechanic for some of these games. I believe that there is a lot more that game developers can do when it comes to new ideas. I would say that eventually, we will have more of these music and sound-based games.
Blog team: Any final thoughts on the topic?
Shivam: I myself am a big fan of a good gaming soundtrack. Sometimes it urges me to purchase the game just so I can experience the world that this music belongs to. I don’t think games would be anywhere near as immersive or exciting if they didn’t have amazing sounds and music.
Blog team: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us Shivam, we really appreciate the interview!
This interview move you in any way? Share your favourite gaming soundtracks with us and become part of the story!