The gaming industry is absolutely huge – in 2020, it was valued at USD 173.7 billion in total, which is an incredible level of growth from the age of “Pong” and “Space Invaders”.
One thing that has always been crucial in the world of gaming is sound design, and nothing has changed in this respect. However, the tools we have to implement incredible levels of realistic sound design make a massive impact in all kinds of games.
From Triple-A Titles to Independent Games
Sound design in gaming is not just about a game like Halo creating a huge library of sounds. Even small, independent titles are able to embrace the power of sound design to create a more immersive experience.
Every little sound in a game has been carefully planned and programmed. When your avatar or character is walking around within a game you might not even think about the sounds of trees rustling or footsteps, but the sound designer has had to create them, or at least source them.
There are some amazing examples of “Foley artistry” which is a term that has been taken from the movie industry. This is where sound designers make their own unique and exciting sounds, often improvising them without having the real object to hand.
For instance, if you want to create the sound of horses hooves, you might not be able to access and record a real horse, so designers can recreate it in the studio. Historically – and comedically – coconuts may have been used, but techniques have become more advanced.
For science fiction and fantasy games, sound designers may really have their work cut out. In these sorts of games, sound designers don’t just have the task of creating realistic sounds, but they may have to make the sounds of alien creatures, spacecraft, and use their imagination to create the imagined sound of things that don’t actually exist.
The online gambling and gaming industry has also played a big part in the growth of sound design in gaming.
Online casino games are a more exciting and immersive option if they have sounds, such as casino jackpots triggering a sound when you win. It is important that casinos consider the legal restrictions, too. For example, in the UK, a casino can’t use sound to ‘imply’ that a loss or an equal return is a win by triggering a sound that would otherwise represent a win.
Creating a Full Soundscape For Gaming
Even games with relatively simple designs need to create a convincing soundscape, and this can include both the music and the incidental sounds.
Consider a game like Minecraft, you’ll know that the music and the sound effects were relatively modest, especially when the game first launched. They haven’t grown that much either. However, some of the sounds of the monsters, and of actions like digging and mining have become iconic.
Music is an important part of a game, too, but keep in mind the fact that this is not usually the job of the sound designer. Some big games like “Need For Speed No Limits” have recruited big-name musicians like Steve Aoki for the music.
Skills of a Sound Designer
What sort of skills are needed to become a sound designer for games?
While it often helps to have something of a musical background, this isn’t essential, though you do need to be able to record and edit sounds. Music technology is definitely part of the skillset of a sound designer, especially if you are working alone.
Creativity is essential. You’ll have to consider lots of ways in which you can recreate sounds and even create newly imagined sounds for things like mythical creatures. You won’t be able to do this with any competence if you’re not a creative person. You have to be willing to use your imagination.
Your job can vary so much. If you’re a sound designer, one day you might be tasked with creating sounds to represent winning a jackpot or the sound of slots in a casino game, and the next day you might be creating sounds from an alien planet.
Some of us are guilty of taking the sounds for granted when we’re gaming. A lot of incidental sounds like footsteps seem to disappear into the background. This usually means the sound designer is doing their job well and creating a natural sound.
The role of sound designers is often forgotten, but they should be lauded as they help to create more realistic and exciting games.