Welcome to another Paula’s Game Ramblings; this time, I’m going on a ramble about video games, of course, but mainly about the sound effects in games.
When we think of video games, the first things that come to mind are visuals, storylines, and gameplay. I don’t know about you, but the game’s sound is crucial to me because it gives context and depth to the game I’m playing. So many iconic video games are instantly recognisable from their soundtracks and sound effects.
So it is without a doubt that a strong sense of sound is integral to a player’s overall game experience. For me, as for every gamer, sound effects provide an important gameplay cue for players where they make things clear or reinforce our actions, giving feedback on your decisions in a game. Sounds such as a reward sound effect when you gain an extra heart or life.
It only takes a few seconds of playing your favourite game on mute to realise how important sound is to create a captivating experience. Try it out, and you will see what I mean!
From basic sounds like a door closing or a dog barking to iconic jingles, such as when you solve a puzzle in any The Legend of Zelda games. Sound effects make the characters, stories, and worlds we as gamers are playing come alive for us.
Yoshi and Zelda
For example, imagine jumping on Yoshi’s back and not hearing that unique sound as Baby Mario settles into the saddle. I can’t describe the sound in words as English doesn’t have a word for that sound. But it sounds like veet varoom to my ears. It’s what I would call a happy sound as it makes me smile each time I hear it.
Another happy sound I like and have as a message tone on my phone is the sound effect you hear in the Zelda games when Link opens a chest. I love it.
Stir up Emotions
Other sound effects in games can have the opposite effect on a player by stirring up other emotions such as fear, like listening to the creepy sound effects in a game like Silent Hill. I played Silent Hill, the first game in the series, many years ago on Playstation. One evening, being the fearless person I am, I decided to play Silent Hill with the lights out and the curtains closed in the living room. To add to the atmosphere, I had the bright idea of connecting the PlayStation to my stereo at the time. It had four speakers, and they were attached to the living room wall in various places for optimum sound.
Happy, Sad, Afraid
Instantly I was transported into the game with the sound blasting out from four corners of the room. Between the creepy, dark atmosphere of the game, the sound of the siren and the ever-present fog and the amplified sound effects coming out of the speakers. I terrified myself. I’ve never played a Silent Hill game since. Since then, anytime I hear a siren, I’m back in Silent Hill, walking around lost in the fog, feeling terrified.
On the opposite scale, some sound effects in video games can be relaxing. For example, a good sound effect like the plink plop of dropping a building foundation onto the map in Townscaper can relax the player, at least it does with me.
Another in-game sound effect I find soothing is the sound of the ocean lapping off the shore in Animal Crossing New Horizon. My character Mac-j spent many an evening sitting on the sandy beach. Just listening to the waves and the sound of the trees rustling in the breeze. It’s a fantastic substitute for the real thing in the cold winter when you can’t make it to the beach.
What are some of your favourite sound effects in video games?
Feel free to leave a comment below.