University of Jyväskylä

Game sound design intrigues researchers

The Symposium on Game Sound and Game Music, held at the University of Jyväskylä beginning on November 16, 2017, is breaking new ground in the research on game music. The event is co-organised by the Lu­di­fication and the Emer­gence of Play­ful Cul­tu­re project and the Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies.

The keynote speakers of the two-day symposium are Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard and Petri Alanko. Grimshaw-Aagaard has published extensively on topics related to games. He also writes open source programs for virtual research environments.

Petri Alanko is a BAFTA-nominated composer, musician and producer. His latest creation is the epic, electronic scifi score that accompanies Remedy’s cinematic hit game, Quantum Break. Alanko is also leading a workshop at the symposium that simulates the often-hectic work of game music composers and sound designers.

Atmospheric element or necessary evil

Professor Raine Koskimaa says that music and sound play important roles in creating the atmosphere of a game. Sounds frequently also relay important gameplay information. Despite all of this, the design of game sound, the utilisation of sound in interfaces, and the effect of music and sound on the gaming experience have all received relatively little research attention.

Raine Koskimaa. Photo: Petteri Kivimäki.

– It’s an exciting situation for a researcher to be in, when you’re dealing with a significant topic that holds the opportunity for completely new research. The Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies is well equipped to take on a large role in researching game music and sound, Koskimaa says.

Koskimaa believes that the appreciation for game music is on the rise, as proven by the various game music concerts that Finnish symphony orchestras have recently organised. On the other hand, mobile game developers have found that their games are often played on mute, which means that they must be designed to also work without any sound at all.

– Large game productions pay a lot of attention to sound and music. In smaller indie games, the quality of audio varies. In some cases, a unique soundscape is a way for a game to stand out from the competitors, whereas in other cases, it’s a necessary evil that is carried out with minimal resources, Koskimaa sums up.

The game industry is growing in size, but it is also growing thematically to deal with new and often more serious topics.

– The game Lydia, for example, shows a child experiencing adults’ alcohol use, whereas That Dragon, Cancer deals with a child getting ill with cancer. When the topics grow more ambitious, music and sound design must also deal with new challenges, Koskimaa says.

One factor adding to the challenge is the increase in games that use virtual and augmented reality technologies. These games require a whole new type of audio design. Sound design also matters in the specialized genre of learning games.

– We should also be studying the ways in which sound design could be used to support learning, Koskimaa notes.

Event information:

Symposium on Game Sound and Game Music
Date: 16-17 November 2017
Location: University of Jyväskylä, Main campus, Musica building

More information:

Raine Koskimaa
040 840 5968

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