Adele Cutting, a BAFTA award-winning audio professional with 20+ years of experience in audio direction, stopped by the IRIS Pod to chat to Tom about the importance of audio in gaming, how audio conveys emotion, and of course Tom's favourite and least favourite subject: the metaverse.
Here are some of the highlights from the conversation…
‘In certain types of games, we can actually manipulate the player’s emotions, how they're meant to be feeling. That's kind of fun to be able to do.
Audio is vital in gaming and helps bring the atmosphere to life. Not only does it tell the story, it also anticipates the story by communicating something bad that might be brewing, a happy turn of events, or a romantic setup. Audio can go even further by giving directional information. In a war game, for instance, you can hear where your enemies are coming from because of the directional sound. Audio significantly enhances the gameplay experience and provides key information that you need to know to be successful in the game.
‘We tried making a fuss [about audio] for years, and now we’re just cracking on and making it great’
Sound may be the forgotten sense, but try releasing a game without audio. Audio is absolutely fundamental, especially in horror games, to the point where Adele’s team even released an audio-only zombie game for the sight-impaired.
‘The advent of VR games is massive for audio’
While sound design has always been important, VR games have brought the importance of sound to the forefront. Because you're actually manipulating objects in VR, audio helps gamers feel like they’re in that actual space. This is where directional sound comes in. You can't just have stereo sound with no location; it needs to be bedded in otherwise it will never feel real.
‘I think of the metaverse in the same way as VR technology’
It’s hard to say for sure, but we are at the start of the journey. In ten years, it’ll probably be commonplace, but it’ll still take a while to get there. With VR technology, we’re further along but it’s still so expensive that many people can’t get more involved in it. The metaverse has similar challenges, but it could go so many different ways.
‘I was surprised by how advanced the audio is in audio dramas’
Similarly to audio-only games, being involved in an audio drama — i.e. a film without the visuals — is really interesting for a sound person. Figuring out how best to convey emotions with no visual clues is an exciting challenge, and one Adele wants to do more of. Furthermore, the audio within audio dramas is much more advanced than she had anticipated. Gone are the days of stereo; we have entered the phase of binaural sound, which works incredibly well given that many people are listening through headphones now.
‘There has been a shift in how we consume stories’
Growing up, we had films and TV. Now we have films, TV, and games. Gaming is just another way of consuming stories, a more interactive way that you're actually part of. In books and TV, you’re just a spectator. In games, you’re experiencing the story first hand and playing a role in how it pans out.
‘I think people who criticise games don't know games’
There are so many different types of games, from the beautiful stories and narratives of indie games that are more in line with what you’d see in a Netflix show, like The Last of Us, right up to your big budget games. People who criticise games usually assume the worst and don't actually have the information to be able to judge properly.
2:08 |In certain types of games, we can actually manipulate the player’s emotions
4:11 | We've always been the underdogs
15:44 | The advent of VR games is massive for audio
17:49 | I think of the metaverse in the same way as we do technology
26:13 | I was surprised by how advanced the audio is in audio dramas
30:12 | There has been a shift in how we consume stories
31:00 | I think people who criticise games don't know games
Watch full podcast on YouTube, or listen on your favourite podcast platform.