The Importance of Sound Design

Hey, I’m Max from Max Louis Creative and I work with indie developers day in and day out to help produce and market their games. Sound design is one aspect, a whole handful of devs I’ve seen, just completely underthink.

Let’s begin with a mini quiz, before we discuss sound design.

When you think about the following games/TV shows, in your head, what are the first sounds you think of?

  1. PAC-MAN
  2. Super Mario
  3. Scooby Doo

Super Mario Model Sound Design

Ok, let’s go through each one. We assume that you have played/watched at least one of these!

  1. “WAKKA-WAKKA” may have been your first thought! This is the iconic sound of PAC-MAN.
  2. “It’s a me, Maaaario!” is likely to be what you thought of. Everyone knows this catchphrase!
  3. “Shhhcooby Dooby Doo!” or “Shwaggy” might have been your first thoughts.

So, WHY do we remember these sounds immediately when we think of these things?

Sound effects and music make certain scenes, in both game and film, memorable for people. Every time someone hears the sounds, they will recognise it straight away and remember where they heard it from.

Over time, indie games have been losing sight of the importance of sound design. Some developers don’t realise the power and impact that sound has on an audience. Even if you don’t actively notice the sound, it is making an enormous difference to your viewing experience and pleasure.

The Reasons Why Sound Design Is So Powerful

Sounds are as important as visuals. In fact, they work together and each element complements each other. Without one, the other wouldn’t be as effective. Imagine Jaws without the impending doom sound effects, but also imagine it with just this sound and no visuals. It wouldn’t make any sense for the audience! Similarly, having particular music or sound effects make a certain scene memorable.

Good sound design encourages the audience to connect more with what they are watching. It helps to understand the film scene/moment in the game and creates the atmosphere. In other words, sound appropriately sets the scene and can tell a story in itself. Every jump, step and crouch have a sound effect, which all create realism. Also, without us realising, it makes it more pleasing for us to play.

The experience of watching horror films is greatly improved in the way that sound is used. Sometimes they don’t even use sound in parts! It is used to create suspense and make the audience jump.

Sound design makes things more realistic. It brings life to games/films by adding the time of day and the mood.

People playing game sound design

What Our Sound Designer Thinks…

We asked one of our sound designers why they think that sound design is so important in games and/or films. Here’s what he thinks!

Both film and games are pieces of art that require multiple senses to usually enjoy or to get the full effect of emotion or thought to relay to the audience. Music helps flesh out the visual and mechanical aspects, in short, it helps provide context for the experienced interactive art for the audience.

Greg

So, sound and music help to enhance the audience’s experience, by making them feel the full effect of emotion. Greg’s point about “music helping flesh out the visual and mechanical aspects” reiterates our earlier point about visuals and sounds working together. This is so important to remember!

So, Why Do You Need To Do It Right?

Having carefully constructed sound design in a game or a film changes the whole viewing experience; it alters how a moment is perceived emotionally by an audience.

Take a look at this interesting article about how some well-known sounds in films and TV shows were actually created. Some of them are very surprising – my favourite was the Toy Story one!

Careful choices need to be made during specific moments in a game or film, to define the emotion and character of the moment.

Sound designing

What Our Other Sound Designer Thinks…

What are the key things you have to think about when creating sounds for a game?

Picture a sailboat floating at sea.. you hear staccato, violin stabs which may signal impending doom or a shark attack (Jaws?). Now you hear whimsical, Studio Ghibli-esque score and you are put at ease. Finally, picture the sounds you would most likely hear, the ocean crashing, wind blowing, and maybe seagulls squawking. All of these moods paint a musical mosaic over other mediums of art and are essential to making a clear aesthetic. Art paints the surface, sound paints the space. The next time you watch a horror film, plug your ears during a jump scare, suddenly it isn’t so scary.

Most important techniques in sound design – Layering, reverb, sidechain compression, dynamic mixing, eq and filters, and layering. Did I mention layering? Layering. Combine all this with clever mic selection/placement, DAW mastery, and a good ear and you just might have good sound design!

Trevyn

Trevyn’s point about “art painting the surface and sound painting the space” is a brilliant way to wrap this blog up. Sound makes the visuals work and this definitely shouldn’t be forgotten about. Visuals will NOT have the same effect on the audience if there’s no good sound design behind it.

So, if you’re making a game or a film…

DON’T FORGET ABOUT SOUND DESIGN!

If you want some brilliant, well thought out sound design for your game (or anything else you’re working on!), then our sound designers would absolutely love to help you! Take a look here to see our work and be sure to contact us if you would like our help.

 

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