Here’s why sound features can make or break a mobile game

As long as there have been video games, there has been accompanying sound design. Think of the increasing speed of the Tetris tune, or the thump getting faster as the Space Invaders closed in on you. The sound features are designed to get the players heart beating faster and increase their motivation to master the challenge.

Now that technology has allowed games to be played on mobile devices, anywhere, any time, the importance of sound is no different.

Who should be considering sound features in their game development?

Sound features have seeped into most types of digital gaming, and a gamer would be hard pushed to think of a game (online or not) that doesn’t have some form of accompanying music or sound effects.

Sound in the gambling world

Online casinos have recently joined the fray of gaming developers using sound in their mobile apps and online games. The top poker sites sound features usually enhance the tension and excitement that would be felt while sitting at a real table playing cards.

Building that tension and utilising music to keep the player motivated is crucial to keeping them on the website and engaged in continuing play. Digital casino and slots providers should take note of how to improve their players engagement in the game, using tempo, genre, and added effects to motivate and entertain their users. And they can learn from video games and the emerging mobile gaming market.

Mobile gaming sound features

Mobile gaming is quickly becoming a favourite amongst users for the convenience. Since smartphone technology has developed exponentially over the last decade, a mobile device can now support games of stunning visual quality and it all fits into a pocket.

Many mobile game developers will want their game to be effective and engaging even without sound, as they have to consider that some may play on a commute or during a coffee break, when players don’t have their headphones handy. And if you’re creating a simple puzzle game, then perhaps sound won’t be a massive concern.

However, all games should become an elevated experience when played with the sound on, especially through headphones. Not only can it be a clever marketing strategy, it can create brand awareness and affinity for the game itself, but even hyper-casual gaming should be providing an immersion experience if the user chooses to play with the sound on. For example, think of how familiar Angry Birds and the soundtrack has become to the general public, or how people born before the millennium would still recognise the noise that Snake made swallowing the dot.

Why include sound features?

So why should mobile game developers in particular focus on creating unique sound features, when the mobile gaming market can be the most casual and short-lived gaming experience?

Music has been used in all types of gaming as a psychological tool, particularly in the video gaming industry where the music has become the soundtrack of a generation –  who can forget the Super Mario or Zelda theme tunes of yesteryear?

And in the past, music was to be unobtrusive on the game play: not distracting, but enough to be engaging and memorable. Now a different approach reigns in the world of digital gaming – music should add to the immersion experience.

Immersion

The immersion experience is where a gamer can lose their sense of time, due to being so emotionally and mentally involved with the game play. The sound and visuals go hand in hand to deliver this, and when a player is wearing headphones this is when sound design really come into it’s own.

Using soundscapes to utilise each ear’s sound individually can truly add to the immersion experience. It means that your user can feel as though they were really in the scenario they are playing, especially now that mobiles can be used as a screen with VR headsets. For example, wind whistling across a barren landscape can be played across each individual ear through a headphone or speaker device, so it mimics how wind sound would pass in real life.

This kind of soundscape places the listener/player in the middle of the action, and when players feel fully immersed they play for longer, are more motivated to carry on playing, and are more engaged in achieving the goals of the game.

Eliciting an emotional reaction

Sound is also commonly used to draw emotional reactions from players. For example, take horror genre games. They will use tense music and jump scares to make the player feel the emotions of the characters, as if it were happening to them.

Emotional involvement is part of the immersion experience, and so developers should consider how they can create emotional connections through sound. Jump scares are just one example, there are many ways games create emotions, such as:

  • Heartbeats and breathing sounds which mimic the character’s emotional state.
  • Movement noise such as footsteps, creaks or squeaks, machinery sounds and other ‘white noise’ sound features that allow the player to feel familiar with the world.
  • These are recurring sound effects or music that accompany moments, eg: a fanfare each time the player wins to elicit joy, or a sad trumpet when they miss out on a timed challenge to accompany disappointment.
  • Background music can reflect the type of game or the mood of the level. Using genres and tempos can help players fall into the mood of the scenario as part of their immersion experience. Ensure it is not too intrusive or your players may mute the sound.

Adding to the gaming experience

Silence in a game would not add to the immersion experience, because very few people will experience real life in complete quiet. Eliciting emotion and creating a space for players to escape is what immersion is all about, and sound features are a crucial part of that which developers can not ignore.

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