The Audio Aspect

A lot of times when you see arguments about video games, they tend to come down to the graphical department.  Obviously, gameplay should always be first as that is the thing that either makes or breaks the game.  But while the bickering goes back and forth over resolutions, textures, quad SLI, and everything else.  My ear tends to go towards the sound.  It’s the sound that subtly creates a new universe for the game just as much as everything else.  It may not be as noted because it isn’t in your face, but it’s always there and it plays a huge role.  And to think, it all started with a bleep.

Bleep… Bloop… Bleep Bleep… buzz… Bloop.  It’s very easy to write out what the sounds of gaming were like in the past.  For home consoles such as the Atari, that’s pretty much all you had with the exception of a few seconds of what some would conceivably call, music.  But it worked!  And naturally, as time went on, it developed into something wondrous… something amazing.  We went from bleeps to actual arrangements such as can be seen in the arcades, computers, and that oh so loveable NES.  I think, and this is just an opinion, the NES is something that pushed it.  It was the system to have back in the day and Nintendo wasn’t stupid about it.  And from there, that snowball effect went into play.  It’s been about 25-years since the NES was released and most people can still easily hum out the Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda themes.  That’s only two examples but we all have our favorite games or not so favorite games that you can instantly hear the music.  Sure, it wasn’t top quality, but it wasn’t bleeps anymore either.  So as we usually do, we progressed.

Arcades were pushing the limits in all areas, PC gaming started upping the sound quality, and home consoles pushed it quite far with higher MIDI samples.  Just listen to some of those SNES soundtracks, they’re beautiful.  And yes, I am using the SNES as a perfect example considering it is still recognized as one of the best consoles in history and in my opinion, had the best musical output… at least on the consoles.  Soon, MIDI would take a backseat though as the new way of audio would soon become a standard in compact discs.

They brought something to the video game world that not many would have thought of 10-years earlier; full high quality audio sound.  Now we would start seeing fully orchestrated music and complete voiceovers that were crystal clear in our games.  At first, it was just amazing because you couldn’t fathom the idea earlier considering the most voice work you would hear in the game sounded like a drowning raccoon.  But now it was real and in-house composures and audio studios were a major part of any successful game company.  It also created work for many actors as they could now lend their voices to video games even if it wasn’t exactly Hollywood style acting.  Some got it right, a lot got it wrong, but damn if it wasn’t cool anyway.  We’ve become blessed with so many great composures such as Koji Kondo, Yoko Shimomura, and Nobuo Uematsu to simply name a very, very tiny portion.  If you want a big list of composures, check out Wikipedia’s list of composures.  They pushed the limits and boundaries and created some of the best music in the industry.  And the cool thing now is that you can even buy a lot of video game soundtracks.  We even have video game concerts that tour and bands that put their own spin on them whether it is Rock, Metal, or soothing piano arrangements.  It’s just become such a major role in any proper development of a title.

We went from bleeps to complete audio soundtracks.  We went from zero voices to full blown acting dialogue.  Imagine playing a game where there was no music?  Or we were living in some shit dimension where the audio never progressed and we were still using bleeps and bloops.  Can you now appreciate how much audio is to any game?  What if there wasn’t the proper music during Aeris’ scene?  What if Snake didn’t have his gritty voice in the Solid series?  My whole point of this is that audio in video games is something to truly pay attention to and enjoy because it adds just as much depth to a title as everything else.  While it may never break a game, it has the ability to elevate it to new heights.  And it’s such a beautiful thing when everything… Clicks.

And I won’t lie, I own quite a few video game related soundtracks and they were worth every penny.


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