The Sound of Gaming

Chances are that you’ve played a video game of some sort these days. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Triple-A title, charming indie gem or massively multiplayer game though. Any studio can produce a good game with the right kind of drive and ambition. What makes a good game better are the subtle details.

These subtle details are far ranging too. Some of which include detailed newspapers in a game world or scratches on spent bullet casings ejected from a gun. The level of detail on the smallest objects help immerse you in the world you have been presented and it just makes the whole experience more enjoyable.

From the posters on the walls to the treads on the car tires.
From the posters on the walls to the treads on the car tires.

Subtlety has many forms though and this article is concerned with sound. There is probably some game you hold dear more than others with well-designed sound effects as well as original soundtracks only enhance that. Talking about good quality sounds is difficult without hearing anything though. So to illustrate the point, here’s a link to a video that shows the differences between the original DOOM for the PC and the port made for the PS1.

If you watched the video, then the differences are clear. If not, then the PS1 port of DOOM was almost a total conversion in terms of what was changed. The weapon sound effects were changed out for ‘heavier’ ones that add impact to every single shot you make. Even with the pistol. The music became much darker and hair-raising. I myself remember being too scared to start a level because the music unsettled me so much (On the PS1, level 4 – Command Control). That was just the music.

Since the rapid expansion of the video games industry, budgets get larger and larger which allows for aspects of games design to flourish beyond what a lot of people ever expected. Grand Theft Auto 5 for example cost Rockstar £170 million to produce their beautiful, detailed and richly sounding game, they made around £500 million back just in the first day!

What’s worth mentioning is that even with all of the resources being poured into games development, having a good setup through which to hear everything properly is paramount – Welcome to the world of being an audiophile.

One of the things to consider is your room’s acoustics. This is how the structure of your room, as well as the materials used, reflect and absorb sound waves. Concert halls have specially built walls that reflect sound waves perfectly around the audience. As a quick rule of thumb, if your left and right stereo speakers are pointing at your left and right ear, level with your head, you’ll be able to hear each type of sound clearly. These types are bass, middle and treble (loosely speaking). For a more in depth look at acoustics, here’s a link to an article by Empire that can help you understand a little more.

This diagram shows optimal speaker placements for a home sound system to help show how placement is everything when adding your sound system to your room.

stereo-games
An ideal TV stereo speaker setup.

 

The world of acoustics is vast indeed. Many people have spent their lives trying to understand how the mechanics behind it work and how each person can perceive the best type of audio.

For true connoisseurs (with a good chunk of cash to spare) there is already a company dedicated to bringing you a perfect audio system. Gecko have been working in film and media for a long time and have the experience needed to actually design an audio system that caters to the vast array of acoustic spaces in the world. From sound systems on private yachts to a system for a personal cinema, the options provided always suit the person getting the system.

Over at geckohomecinema.com, you can see exactly what such a company can offer people that demand the best.

As a rule of thumb, price is almost directly proportional to the quality you get. A simple 2.1 stereo speaker system could sound terrible if it cost £30. With a £100 amplifier, £100 set of speakers and wall mounts, the jump in quality is justified. Just ask anyone with a stereo system installed in their home that you may know – they will tell you that it’s certainly worth the effort and the money. The music in your playlist sounds richer, gunshots have more of an impact and background audio enhances your gaming experience so much that you wonder how you missed so much before.

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