Essential Technical Skills for Video Game Audio

The beeps, boops, whistles and calliope noises of old-time video games have given way to a rich collection of audio that is essential to the immersive experience of modern digital play.

As a result, the role of video game audio designer is complicated and often involves collaborations with composers and requiring expertise and technical savvy in sampling, recording and mixing. These professionals have the goal of creating and manipulating the sound elements of the game.

An advanced degree in music technology with an emphasis on audio technology prepares graduates with abilities in these areas so they can succeed in a number of video game audio spaces.

What Is the State of the Video Game Sound-Design?

Pitchbends, an audio design and production company, selected eight of the best immersive game sound designs. They include:

  • Pitchbends’ best sound design for 2022, The audio features subtle changes in the character’s footfalls as they run over open ground, through puddles and across bridges. Its clothing schusses against itself as the character moves. In later stages, sounds above the surface of water realistically mute and distort as the character submerges.
  • A sample of The Last of Us shows how the designer used props to make sounds, record them and use them to build the game’s soundtrack. For instance, the creaking of a drawn bow and an arrow release was created by alternately tightening and relaxing a violin string.
  • A car race in Forza Horizon 5 features intertwining sounds of the wind as a cargo airplane swoops down on a highway, hydraulics as it drops the ramp, the pop of a chute pulling a car out of its bay and the scream of the car’s engine as it speeds toward its destination.

While video games can be entertaining without an intricate and sometimes subtle audio track, Pitchbend notes, well-designed sound enriches the experience as sounds appear to react and respond to the player’s moves through the game environment.

“Without this, games can feel somewhat more dull and flat, lacking realism. With the enhanced graphics and visuals of next gen consoles, it is especially useful to incorporate strong sound design elements to modern games,” it says.

Why Is Audio Important to the Immersive Video Game Experience?

Sounds surround us and evoke the full spectrum of emotions. The screech of a car braking puts you on high alert. Your mobile phone clock jolts you awake. A breeze in the pines might give you a sense of calm.

In modern gaming, the blend of realistic video and sound deepens players’ involvement with the game and heightens the experience. In addition to the sounds that evoke emotional responses, well-executed game audio also does the following:

Matches the geography of the video scenery. If players can select locations around the world, the sound designer can use MIDI technology to manipulate one musical score to complement a variety of places.

Provides audio cues. These can be for anything the player manipulates in the game, from clicks when scrolling through menus and instructions to sounds appropriate to character interactions with the NPCs.

Advances the character narrative. For instance, audio can be upbeat at the beginning, fiery when things go sideways, confused by too many choices or not enough, intense during face-offs with villains and so on. Using sound to tell the character’s story puts the player in the same emotional state.

“We respond to sounds more acutely than when we use our sight, taste, or touch. As such in games we can use audio cues for more memorable moments of gameplay,” according to A Studio lite, a game design tutorial website.

How Do Audio Professionals Prepare for Careers in Game Sound Design?

The Master of Music in Music Technology – Game Audio Technology Emphasis online program at Southern Utah University equips graduates with the necessary insights, expertise and understanding for advancement in the field.

The program prepares graduates for a number of roles in the game sound field. These include game audio designer, sound supervisor, music composer and editor. Positions may also be in the following areas:

Audio recording surveys the performance of recording studio electronics and signal flow, computer-based digital recording and editing, recording console operations, signal processing and more.

Audio for interactive entertainment covers the composition, production and integration workflows of music and audio.

Game audio implementation provides opportunities for hands-on experience with professional-grade technology such as AudioKinetic Wwise middleware and other software game engines.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts demand for audio professionals will grow by 10% (faster than average growth for all other jobs) through 2031. Nationwide, annual salary for video game sound designers is an average of $60,077.

Learn more about Southern Utah University’s online Master of Music in Music Technology – Game Audio Technology Emphasis program.

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