An interesting article from the Oxford University Press blog examines the importance of audio in video games, with an emphasis on its effect on player performance. Do gamers play more successfully with immersive music and sound effects, or is their performance improved in a more silent play-space?
According to studies conducted by the author Siu-Lan Tan, gamers perform better with game audio turned on rather than off, although this performance improvement seemed most pronounced among experienced gamers. For newbies, the game audio and music seemed to increase initial anxiety levels at the start of the game, and these players benefited from turning the audio off initially and replacing it with unrelated music playing from a boombox in the room.
What does this tell us? In my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, I explore this idea along with a possible approach that game composers can take in order to alleviate the problem (Chapter 3, page 40):
“A player may be initially overwhelmed or even discouraged by the apparent complexity of the game. This can pose a very large barrier to access. As game composers, our job here is to offer emotional reassurance to the player.”
The chapter continues with an exploration of musical choices that can enhance player concentration and alleviate stress. This is one of the many ways in which music can aid players in performing at their best throughout the course of a game.
The article by Siu-Lan Tan for the Oxford University Press is called, “What’s the secret to high scores on video games?” and you can find it here.