Do you play games with sounds on or off? Does it make a significant difference in your performance or entertainment level? The power of sounds in a game might be bigger than you think.
Skill Lab: Science Detective is the latest addition to our game collection and the first one where we put more emphasis on sound design. Of course, as a research project, we have limited resource and the gameplay experience matters the most, alongside a solid science background. Everything related to the player's interaction must be of the highest quality possible. The user interface, the buttons, solving puzzles...everything that could help the player better understand the setting he's in. This includes the soundtrack too, helping to set the pace and immerse the player.
In our latest game, the background music is combined with sound effects. The background music helps to create an atmosphere and encourages the player getting into the game spirit, while the sound effects giving audio feedback for the player's actions. Each mini-game has its own background music, helping to characterize the setting.
A sound designer is essentially making sure that the sound effects are creating harmony with the music's tonality, so they don't clash with one another. It's like understanding how the chords are working while playing the piano. The sound will be dissonant with the wrong note interval and you want to avoid such an unpleasant noise. In the game, an action followed by an unpleasant voice can tell you that it is an action to avoid.
How does music affect performance?
Richard J. Tafalla studied the gender‐specific cardiovascular and performance responses to playing the violent video game “DOOM” with and without the soundtrack. Men and women equally rated the game as more violent with the soundtrack. Men performed the game about twice as well with the soundtrack, while women's performance did not change at all.
However, Mashasi Yamada's study shows a different image of the racing game Ridge Racer V. They found out that players' had the fastest laps time with the music off. In addition, 10 different music tracks were tested—and the lowest scores were earned when playing with the soundtrack built into the game
Conclusions are not that simple, sometimes the results are more complex. 'Highly arousing' music can also distract attention. Cassidy and MacDonald tested people playing a driving game with car sound effects alone or with car sound effects plus different kinds of music. Upbeat music made people drove the fastest—but also made the greatest number of mistakes, such as hitting barriers or knocking over road cones!
More than just the high scores
The primary goal of Skill Lab: Science Detective is investigating human cognition while providing fun and entertainment wrapped in a witty detective story. There is more to a game than just high scores. It’s also about being transported and immersed in another world, discovering a story, getting to know characters. Music and sound effects are what bring you there.
Your gameplay is invaluable to science! Let us know in comments how do you prefer playing: with or without sounds?