Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Blog Entry Two

Amnesia: The Dark Descent – A case study of audio performing the role of Sensory Immersion in video game

To begin this blog, I’ll begin by defining Sensory Immersion as it is done so in the presentation, which states that it is ‘Audio that serves to enhance a sense of physical presence in the game.’ (Ermi, L., and F. Mäyrä, 2005). The presentation also gives two examples of video footage to go along side this that demonstrate the use of audio, but more specifically sound, to produce a believable sonic environment aboard an aircraft carrier and throughout a variety of environments in another First Person Shooter. These videos display audio with the purpose of creating a sonic environment and sounds that re-create real world phenomenon, such as the wind buffeting.
     As such, I will be discussing Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Frictional Games, 2010). I have chosen this game as it features around a protagonist, who must explore an abandoned castle, while attempting to stay alive and keep sane, as when the sanity meter reduces, auditory and visual hallucinations occur. These hallucinations are an in-game recreation of a real life phenomenon (like the wind buffeting) and as a survival horror video game it also has a focus on audio elements, as immersion is arguably the main focus of this genre.

Returning to the idea of enhancing the ‘physical presence’ within the game, MacMahan (2003:68) states that ‘presence’ results from both perceptual and psychological immersion. Perceptual immersion being ‘accomplished by blocking as many of our senses as possible’ which connect us to the real world and, psychological immersion resulting from the players ‘mental absorption into the game’.
    With this in mind, I would argue that Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Frictional Games, 2010) demonstrates both of these ideas, as the start screen actually recommends that players turn off all their lights and wear headphones for the full experience, which demonstrates the game being designed with perceptual immersion in mind. Secondly, the sanity meter, when used in tandem with the hallucinations, will also mentally absorb the player into the world, as you have to constantly question your in game ‘self’ and monitor your sanity through these hallucinations, questioning whether sounds are coming from actual enemies or if they are ‘Auditory Hallucinations’.
    Demarque (2013) actually denotes the importance of these kinds of sounds ‘which have no shown source on screen’, which gives some credence to the idea that this can intensify immersion within the gameplay context.

However, not just these ‘Auditory Hallucinations’ are important to creating a believable physical presence, as Grimshaw (2008) would argue that all sound is increasingly important to this Sensory Immersion, as the absence of sound negatively affected participants sense of immersion and a lack of auditory feedback also lowered his participants feelings of competence, in turn lowering immersion.

This is important, as shown above there is a correlation between physical presence/immersion and audio. However, in this train of thought we must not forget that other than music, and the already discussed hallucinations, there are room tones, area loops, source loops, diegetic and non-diegetic sounds within the game, that act as the backbone of the sonic landscape, which before we actually see any hallucinations or music dictates our base levels of immersion within the game.
    These sounds are important because studies such as; Toprac et al (2010) have shown statistical evidence to the ideas that; the best sound design for causing fear is loud well-timed sound effects matching on-screen visuals (demonstrated by the sequences where your character has a bout of madness on screen or when the wind blows through the castle), where as the best sound design for causing anxiety is medium volume sound effects again matching some on-screen visual (such as a door opening randomly near you) both of which can be demonstrated using source loops or one-shot sound cues. Toprac et al (2010) also found that untimed and acousmatic sound effects are best for creating suspense, which can be demonstrated by sounds that play at random intervals throughout a level (this can be anything from thunder sounds generated at random intervals in the background to floorboard creaks or monster sounds).

I hope that this blog post has been informative and enjoyable and also given you enough evidence that Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Frictional Games, 2010) is a good example of a game that has audio that is designed for the purpose of creating Sensory Immersion.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent. (2010) PC [Game] Frictional Games.

Demarque, T,C. & Soares de Lima, E. (2013) ‘Auditory Hallucination: Audiological Perspective for Horror Games.’ Paper presented at: SBGames. São Paulo, Brazil, October 16-18.

Ermi, L., and F. Mäyrä. (2005) ‘Fundamental Components of the Gameplay Experience: Analysing Immersion.’ In Proceedings of the DiGRA Conference, 18:15–27.

Grimshaw, M. Lindley, C. & Nacke, L. (2008) ‘Sound and Immersion in the First-person Shooter: Mixed Measuring the Player’s Sonic Experience.’ Paper presented at: Audio Mostly Conference. Piteå, Sweden, October 22-23.

MacMahan, A. (2003) ‘Immersion, Engagement, and Presence: A method for analysing 3-D Video Games’ In Perron, B. & Wolf, M, J, P. (eds.) The Video Game Theory Reader. New York: Taylor and Francis Group, pp. 67-86.

Roux-Girard, G. (2010) ‘Listening to Fear: A study of sound in Horror Computer Games’ In Grimshaw, M. (2010) Game Sound Technology and Player Interaction: Concepts and Developments.University of Montréal: Canada, pp. 192-212.

Toprac, P. & Adbel-Meguid, A. (2010) ‘Causing Fear, Suspense and Anxiety Using Sound Design in Computer games’ In Grimshaw, M. (2010) Game Sound Technology and Player Interaction: Concepts and Developments. Southern Methodist University:USA, pp. 176-191.


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