How in-game music impacts on players
The musical compositions for any type of video game can have a big impact on player experience and are of significant interest to gaming ethics experts. It's important for music and sound to feature within games, but it's also vital that gamers don't feel forced to take certain actions.
It is possible for music and sound to manipulate players within the gaming environment. For example, the Space Invaders game from Japan, which was released in 1978, featured a sound score that increased player heart rate. The game featured a pattern of four notes and was primitive when compared to the musical compositions of today's games. However, as the aliens moved further down the screen, the tempo got faster and player heart rates increased
The success of the music score in Space Invaders led to developers reaching an understanding that music was a very important factor in the design process. Increasing the speed of music and sounds often leads to players gaming at a much faster rate.
Often musical scores are in place to help players position themselves within the game and act as a prompt. Repeating sounds and musical themes can help gamers to make sense of the world they are in. However, the keys used and the speed of sound can cause players to lose track of real time. Where game design and orchestration mesh well together, players often find the game is an immersive experience known in the trade as "the flow".
When players become this immersed in the game their reactions become virtually automatic and they don't feel any separation from the game play and can lose their grip on reality.
Game designers state the death music played at the 'Game Over' screen is the biggest psychological factor for players. Tim Summers, an expert in musical scores for video games, comments: "Death music is really fascinating. It draws on established signifiers of sadness and death - descending lines, a slow or slowing tempo. A lot of it mimics that classic cartoon ‘wah wah wah’ of sadness and failure. But death music has to walk a very fine line. It has to make the character’s death and loss significant, but at the same time, it has to encourage you to get back up and press the button to start again."
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