Music, Audio and Immersion (for Game Composers and Sound Designers)



Since I’ll be giving a speech at the Montreal International Game Summit in November about “Music, the Brain, and the Three Levels of Immersion,” I thought I’d use this blog as an opportunity to look at three other perspectives on the role of music and sound in the Immersion phenomenon – in which we lose all sense of reality and surrender ourselves completely to the gameplay experience. My speech in Montreal will include some ideas that are detailed in chapter three of my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, and the connections between aural experience and the immersion effect will be correlated to some specific research studies that are explored in my book. However, there are certainly multiple ways to approach the topic, and immersion is a complex subject to tackle, particularly when we’re attempting to understand what role audio and music may play in the experience.

In the article, “Papa Sangre and the Construction of Immersion in Audio Games,” author Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo attempts to understand the immersive power of the audio-only game Papa Sangre, while also touching upon the effects of gender exclusion on the ability of non-represented genders to become immersed. The author’s conclusions about the internalized nature of audio-only immersion are intriguing.

In part three of the article, “Video Game Technology: Immersion Through Sound,” author Hugo Aranzaes makes some interesting points regarding the effect of increased audio channels (surround sound systems) on the immersive power of sound, particularly in the case of First Person Shooters, in which such positional audio information can be used strategically during gameplay.

Finally, an article by Connor Bridson provides a highly personal and subjective viewpoint about an equally personal and subjective experience – the horror game. Entitled “Immersion in Horror Video Games,” the article contends that audio in an atmospheric horror game occupies a greater position of importance than visuals in the experience of immersion.