Videogames Need to Learn When to Shut Up

| 29 Oct 2010 12:00

Videogame music is great, but sometimes there's just a little too much of it.

Music is a powerful tool, used to gently nudge a player's emotions - or forcibly shove them - in a specific direction, whether that's towards the dizzying heights of adrenaline-fueled action, or the terrifying and equally adrenaline-fueled depths of fear. Not every auditory technique gets equal airplay however, and in Issue 277 of The Escapist, Joe Myers talks about one sound that is almost criminally underused - the sound of silence.

Hold it. If you've got something with a speaker running, shut it off. Noisemakers, stereos, televisions, small animals - if you can mute it, do it. Now just wait a bit ... there. Besides whatever is in the background, be it your fridge, the whine of a computer screen, or a fidgeting dog, there's nothing but silence. Surreal, isn't it?

As videogames tell stories that rival movies, game soundtracks also are moving towards the quality and complexity of film scores. Any good writer knows that a proper story can't just be high-octane bass-thumping madness the whole way through, not if you want your audience to really climb into the story's skin and walk around in it a little. There have to be lulls, softer moments, moments where the bad guy is in the next room waiting for the hero or the hero finds himself back in a time before he was a hero at all. It's in these moments where that pulse-pounding techno soundtrack or even the saddest violin solo is too much for what there really needs to be: silence.

Music might push us one direction or another, but used properly, silence can yank the safety net from under us and throw our imaginations into overdrive. You can read more about it in "Enjoy the Silence."

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