As a film sound designer I watch a lot of films (eg the International NZ Film Festival is about to start & my festival average is usually 25 films in 3 weeks) - its partly because I love cinema but its also partly vocational/professional: I want to experience as many forms of film making & story telling as possible, from every culture...

Does the same apply to you game sound designers? Do you spend all your spare time playing games? How many hours a week do you play games? Do you buy every platform as its released and check out all the new games as they are released?

6 Answers 6


Hey Tim -

I try to play as many games as I can. First, since I enjoy games (always have), and second as professional research. The problem with games, they take way more of a time investment than watching a film. You could put 2-3 hours in a game, and just barely scratch the surface. I own all of the game systems.

What I try to do, is play the titles that get the most hype. Or, if there is a title that is similar to something I am working on, or I'm told to reference, I'll make it a point to check those out. Sometimes I just spend a few hours as research. Other times, I enjoy it on a gamer level and may take it all the way to the end (or as far as I can get). Sadly, I usually play on the easier difficulties, since getting through the game is more important than being challenged as a gamer.

Rather that playing games on a constant basis, I find there are times of the year where I have more downtime then others. Then it's time to do marathon game sessions to work through the backlog. The holidays are always like this. The game industry pretty much shuts down Dec - Mid Jan, making it a good time to get some gaming it.

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    @Chuck Russom What would you do if your boss told you "I want it to sound like the final boss at the final level of _______" - would you go and play the game for 40 hours to beat it to hear the ending level? Or would you trust a You-Tube video?
    – Utopia
    Jul 14, 2010 at 23:53
  • @Ryan, I'll ask them if they have a saved game that they can show me, or make a capture for me. If not, I'll check the web for video. I've never run into a situation where I absolutely had to reference something that I couldn't find a video of. But I guess if it was that important, I can just play the game for 40 hours and bill the client :) Jul 15, 2010 at 2:19
  • Also, to add, it is way more likely for a game designer to say, "This should sound like the thing in the matrix, or start wars, or district 9, or whatever." I'd say 9 times out of 10 games designers will reference a movie in addition to or instead of a game. And it is usually the Matrix or Star Wars :) Jul 15, 2010 at 2:21
  • I agree, games are a bigger investment of time & money than films so it is hardly possible to fully experience all the good ones. I just try and play the biggest and most interesting games or games that are similar to projects I am working on. Jul 15, 2010 at 9:03

I was just referencing a game earlier today because I heard good things from a lot of people about the audio. One thing I can take from this game that people are probably liking is the subwoofer. I can take things like that and try to incorporate what I think they did right and what I could possibly expand on or do better. For example, there are times were they blend it extremely nicely with the tension of the scene but there are others where things like opening a door have too much low end. These are things that I will consciously think about more often after experiencing a game like this.

So in general, I do play a lot of game for the same reasons Chuck does. I've been playing them since I was four and it's a good educational experience for my practice. I would say I play about 10-15 hours a week and its usually after work during the week (I like to escape from games on the weekends). I only own one console (Xbox 360) but I have accessibility to multiple here at work if I need to reference anything.


I did some video game sound design recently and I learned a lot from playing other games; learning how they handled a situation. Though I think it is slightly important to think outside the box for games and what would be fun to hear. The problem with games compare to movies is the repetition. When you hear the same sound play for the 100th time, it becomes tiresome, specially if its an alarm. It is wise to learn from other games not to do the same mistake as them which became tiresome to you.


One of the things that makes game audio so exciting (and challenging) is that it changes every single day and what cut it yesterday probably won’t tomorrow. Staying current on technology and techniques is absolutely imperative when it comes to keeping your game’s quality bar high.

That being said, I think it is incredibly important for game audio professionals to play games. Just as musicians listen to other peoples music, and film sound designers watch other peoples movies, we too should be playing and building on each other’s work.

Watching videos of games on Youtube can help, but you will lose so much in the translation. Our ultimate job as game sound designers is to not only create high quality audio content, but to implement it in a way that provides the player with meaningful feedback to their actions in game. Masterfully executed game audio cannot be fully experienced without the controller in your hands, and every year more and more studios are putting out awesome audio work that deserves to be played.

TLDR: Yes.


I have always been a gamer/musician hybrid, and therefor would split my free time between the two. Playing games as a video game sound designer could be called "case studies" or "research" because you're playing something that a group of audio engineers poured their heart into, and got paid a very nice paycheck for it. That being said, games such as Mass Effect 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2 have outstanding audio work done, and have received numerous awards at GDC and other similar conventions.

As far as which ones games I go out and purchase goes, that's where youtube, and forums come in. I'm not a big fan of 60 dollar console games, and with the sad fact that businesses like blockbuster no longer are around to provide the public with a rental service to try things out before they commit to dropping serious dollars on a product they might end up disliking.

What I like to do, is learn who the sound team on the game is, and research those folks, and read anything that they might have posted on a forum, interview, etc... Because after all, those people are your "competition" and should be a driving force to push you to perfection. You'll usually find some repeated names, which gives me more of an incentive to find out what those guys did when they were my age, looking for work.

Finally, most of the time, new releases have something new to show to industry, including audio. I remember when I played Mass Effect 2 for the first time, and starting using my biotic powers, and started noticing little tricks the team used in order to keep that bassy, multi-band biotic sound sharp and clean while everything else is going on. (I won't divulge that, but it involves a side-chained low-pass filer built into the audio engine)

Anywho, I'm not going to tell you to buy every game you see, instead, try watching youtube videos of it, or on the games homepage for some in game footage, and read read read read everything you can. I know I can't afford a 60 dollar game every time I see something I want to play.

Cheers fellow sound buddy.


Unfortunately most of the games I play now are for research rather than fun ( but the research can be fun too :)). I basically have 2 different types of titles I play.

  1. those that I am curious about and bash away at for a couple of hours, these usually span all genres, platforms and delivery methods.

  2. those titles that I start playing with the intention of playing right the way through. These are chosen with great care, and usually are directly related to any given project I'm working on. Also due to time restraints I limit myself to only one game at a time. But will spend a few hours a night playing.

I work in house and often end up in meetings with other team members talking about all aspects of games, from e.g. how the cameras work in God of War 3 to the Menu layout of Dirt 2, so as broad a knowledge of games is essential, and this means playing a lot. Ironically though I feel that game developers nowadays are drawing more inspiration from movies than ever before, as the line between movies and games becomes increasingly blurred. This goes not only for Audio but for other disciplines too. Thus opening up new avenues of research. for instance 6 years ago I was buying books on C++ programming and generative synthesis, now I am reading books on film sound design and film aesthetics.

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