The excerpts from Sound Play discuss the connection between video games and music. In the introduction of Sound Play, the author states “innovations in video games and game music over recent decades have furnished new ways to think through matters of sound and play.” (Cheng, pg. 5). This quote represents how video games interact with audio and vice versa, and the importance of this interaction.
In Sound Play, Cheng examines sonic engagement in video games, and how “game creators, composers, and player employ music, noise, voice, and silence in ways that purposefully or inadvertently challenge social rules, cultural conventions, technical limitations, aesthetic norms, and ethical codes” (pg. 5). Thus, video games employ sound in a way that not only lends itself to the game, but also challenge social, cultural, and ethical values. In this way, sound itself is a cultural force. This concept relates to chapter 5 of The Auditory Culture Reader.
Additionally, in the section “Great Divides” of Sound Play, Cheng discusses the binary between what is considered “virtual” and what is considered “real”. He claims that virtual and real extend past their traditional definition when considering them in the context of gaming. Video games in themselves could be considered virtual simply because they are removed from real-world experience. However, Cheng argues that the “virtual” nature of games can have real-world consequences. He defines virtual as “almost real”, claiming that, “media theorists have long insisted on virtual environments as lively social settings that are not peripheral or subservient to the real world” (pg. 11). Thus, Cheng argues that virtual environments are not necessarily lesser than or subordinate to real-world environments. Based on this quote, we can infer that the concept of virtual environments is subjective, and depends on the individual’s personal conceptualization of what is considered virtual and what is considered real.
This relates to chapter 5 of The Auditory Culture Reader entitled “Sounding Out the City: An Auditory Epistemology of Urban Experience”, in which the author references Theodor Adorno, stating, “the subjective desire to transcend the everyday through music becomes a focal point of his analysis, as is the desire to remain ‘connected’ to specific cultural products” (Bull & Black, pg. 79). This quote reflects sounds ability to dissociate us or connect us to real-world culture. Music has the ability to transcend to the listener from reality. In regards to Sound Play, music can actually have the opposite effect. Cheng discusses various sounds in video games and how they take the user away from the virtual world, and connects them back to the real-world. He uses the example of real-world music on video game soundtracks. This inclusion of music from cultural familiarity ties the user back to the reality outside of gaming. For instance, Cheng claims that, “some players might experience cognitive dissonance when listening to familiar real-world tunes while journeying through virtual gameworlds…. Muddle noises in horror games may occasionally trick players into thinking that this virtual cacophony is coming from their own physical surroundings. Player-simulated musical performances in online games have the potential to enhances as well as impede listeners’ immersion in the virtual world” (pg. 13). This quote reflects the all-encompassing presence of sound in video games. It also shows the connection sound can create or impede between the virtual world and the real world.
- How does the binary of virtual vs. real constitute itself in sound?
- How can sound encompass virtual spaces as well as physical, real-world settings?
- How does sound affect our perception of reality?