Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Ming Y Chow

Tufts OpenCourseWare
Introduction to Game Development
M. Chow
Spring 2012


Music, Sound and Video Games

The Significance and Importance of Music and Audio in Games

  • Video Games Live! http://www.videogameslive.com/
  • Direct complement to gameplay
    • Feedback and interaction (duh!)
    • Immersion
    • Sensation
    • Sets the stage, genre, tone, and mood of the game; integral part of the foreground
  • Catchy, memory (psychological?)
  • Technological, economic, ideological, social, and cultural pressures have contributed to the development of game audio
  • Constrained by genre and audience expectations

Brief History of Game Music and Sound

  • Way before the 70s: slot machines
  • The '70s: not symphonic; bloops-and-bleeps; Pong; Simon; Gunfight; Space Invaders (heart rate)
  • Early '80s: waka-waka-waka; ditties
  • Remainder of the '80s (8-bit): loopy music; MIDIs; Final Fantasy; Tetris; Game Boy (4 channels for sound)
  • The '90s (16-bit): Sega Genesis (6 channels for sound); play-by-play (read: any of the
  • Maddengames); drum samples; stereo effects
  • The '90s (32-bit): CD quality sound
  • Current: Soundtracks; ambient sound; custom sound generation; full integration to gameplay


  • Interactive audio - Triggered by player's direct input
  • Adaptive audio - Reacts to various game states
  • Dynamic audio - Encompasses both interactive and adaptive audio (i.e., changes in gameplay environment)

Sound Production in Games

Adaptive and Dynamic Audio in Games

  • Loopy audio is frowned upon and games are now largely
  • non-linear
  • Effective and non-boring
  • Use of cues and fades
    • Variability
    • Tempo (Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros)
    • Pitch (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and beyond)
    • Volume (menus)
    • Melody (Final Fantasy series)
    • Open form (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and beyond; Grand Theft Auto III and beyond)


  • Pong
  • Donkey Kong
  • Super Mario Bros
  • Final Fantasy
  • Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • Final Fantasy IX
  • The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Challenges and Looking Ahead

  • Sound and audio can now make or break a game
  • The demand for rich audio experience in a game has never been higher
  • Innovating in game audio is a tough problem
  • Ambience is still very popular
  • In general, game study in academia is still in its infancy; many facets of the field are unchartered