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I decided to ask this after seeing Internet Human's reply to the Career Advice question. I have much more experience working on video games, but I also did audio editing, foley, sound design and wrote music for animations and such.

What I found is that I cannot simply say one is more difficult/better/worse than the other.

However, I could agree that due to the fact that linear media is, eh, linear, things are a bit more straightforward. You don't have to concern yourself with issues such as repetition, behavior in different settings, audio programming, adaptive music etc.

What have you found working on either or both?

  • Repetition, behavior in different settings (or discrete 'stages'), audio programming, adaptive music are technology induced "problems". But those themselves don't offer much which is not already available in a "linear workflow/presentation". Except interactivity, but that's an inherent part of the medium itself, dictated by the technology and medium, not the sound. – Internet Human Mar 6 '13 at 16:23
  • I agree that the question in the title was somewhat misleading. But I didn't expect such conflicting opinions. Anyway, thank you all for your replies. I think I will stick to working on video games for the moment. – Cat Mar 9 '13 at 7:22
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As far as sound design is concerned aesthetically I would say they are both as challenging as you make them. what I have found though is that sound design for interactive media/games as a job is much more diverse and complex as you are dealing not only with sound but with audio systems and in my experience a constantly changing entertainment experience. In Games there is no concept of picture lock, or a time when us audio guys can sit with relatively finished game and decided how we are going to approach it. We have to develop our audio ideas and systems in parallel with all the other departments - this is the challenge and the fun in game audio.

Linear media - or the few things I've done linearly - I find it liberating not to be confined so much by the systems and requirements needed in games. The skill is ... dare I say it ... more like a 'pure artist', sculpting the sound to suite the picture in to the smallest detail, less compromise but a lot more choice.

Both have their challenges - love doing both :)

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to me, it is a pointless question. you are not only comparing apples and oranges, but are also attempting to generalize about two entire forms of media and creative expression.

I dont work on, or play video games,or really have any interest in them but i know for a fact that the range of complexity is vast in film - some projects are straight forward, and some are incredibly complex - technically, emotionally, everything... Film has a vast range, so to even generalise about it on its own is futile.... But to compare one epic and frankly meaningless generalisation with another is well... even more meaningless

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    @tim prebble - I think this is a question which sound designers for games circulate for games quite a bit - I've heard it discussed many times. however I disagree that it is a pointless question. There are very fundamental differences between film and interactive media irrelevant of the type of those respective media's, and understanding those differences are key if you want to work in both media's. – RedSonic01 Mar 6 '13 at 12:06
  • the question is pointless because you ask which is more difficult. Thats a specific question about total generalisations. Had you asked, what are the differences then maybe that might help you appreciate what some of the 'possible' differences might be, but asking which is harder is a pointless question, because there is no answer to it. – user49 Mar 6 '13 at 18:39
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When I first read @Internet Human post on the other thread, I scoffed, started typing a response, then got side tracked, but after this follow up I can see where he/she was going. I agree with @Tim Prebble that it's mostly a pointless assessment, but I want to put something in.

With film/linear media, YOU MAKE THE SOUND. Every touch of reverb, every tail, everything is yours. That's appealing in a lot of ways. Also (and more obviously), temporally, everything happens the same way every time. This portion of the medium makes it in one way "more difficult" and in another way "simpler". In games, so much of the audio is handled in engine. If you are a gamer (or even better if you aren't), go to an assets folder in your game package on a computer, and listen to some of the sounds. You hear typically dry, often mono files that sound nothing like what they sound like when played back in the games engine and with the engine doing spatialization or randomization. In games, all of the reverb (just as one isolated example) is taken care of when you design a room in Unity or whatever engine you're using and define it to have X properties. The sounds then play through it. With games, however, you can not account for timing of one or a hundred shots, or something to even happen at all in games.

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It's a fairly pointless question without specifying what the criteria for assessment are. And even still, it might be or actually is a fairly pointless, opinion-based comparison.

To be somewhat more specific about my impression, my impression comes from how sound in some games (I'm specifically thinking of non-story-based games, but of course this is a generalization) is handled in a somewhat isolated manner, and its use is fairly dictated by the medium (meaning fixed sound cues). Some could say that's what "interactive sound" is. I say it serves mainly a responsive rather than representative role (?), particularly when a game has no story/plot. I find that slightly limiting. Where in linear media you have a linear sound composition, in games (sorry, generalization) you can have sounds that are played in isolation, even though they belong to the same scene. I mean, not all games are e.g. story-/plot-based so that there would be these "arcs" in how the story and it's soundtrack evolves and changes, or that there would be constant change, rather than loops and repetitive sound effects, so it would resemble more like a film (which is or has been one of the ideals in games for a long time for some, particularly the Japanese for example). Also the tools can and do impose constraints regarding how dynamic one can make something, but to consider the tools as making something difficult, is not that valid today I think, when the tools are actually pretty good and easy to use. I mean they're just tools and not something that considers what's really essential and what I think this question/comparison should be concerned with, which is the art itself, not the underlying/realizing technology.

But really, sound tends to serve a slightly/very different purpose in different media, as well as different projects in particular. And then there are projects/products which I find ingenious and and some which don't speak to me at all. So well, it's just an opinion.

However, there could be some philosophical value in debating what and how sound should be used, what's its purpose or how its use could e.g. be advanced in all games, where I think there are some constraints.

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