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Author Topic: Music and Sound VS Visual in Horror/Suspense games.  (Read 1987 times)
Wild Armor
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« on: April 24, 2010, 09:40:25 PM »

I'm currently working on a paper for a class regarding Horror games and was curious if anyone would be able to tell me about their experience while playing any horror game. The primary focus for my paper is whether or not Music and Sound, or absence of, is the driving force in creating suspense and fear in a game against the visuals.

In other words: Music/Sounds (Absence of both) VS Visual content, which do you find most important?

I wasn't sure whether or not to place this topic here, hopefully this is the right place.
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Starmongoose
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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2010, 09:47:27 PM »

I may not be the best person to comment on this genre, I'm an utter chicken. Serious, even Abe's Odyssey freaks me out.
But this is my 2 cents.

Whenever I got up the courage to play Horror-survival games, the part that always freaked me out was if you entered an area and it was completely silent except for a small noise, dripping water for example. I walk around for a minute or two, - usually the scene is normal, if a little poor in the lighting department - when there is a sudden loud noise, a shriek or crashing off camera is enough to make me jump for the power button.

It's what I can't see but can hear that freaks me out the most.
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Wild Armor
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« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2010, 10:18:03 PM »

when there is a sudden loud noise, a shriek or crashing off camera is enough to make me jump for the power button.

It's what I can't see but can hear that freaks me out the most.

I had a friend during middle school that said he would shut the game off if he ran out of ammo when he played resident evil.

But yeah, absence of music and focus of room ambiance and spacial noise is enough to send people off the deep end. I find it very deafening if a game has no music playing, creating a strong tension to when it will occur. A game I chose to talk about, and it might be obscure to others, is Trilby's Notes. About a third of the game has no music playing, just the patter of Trilby's feet. What freaked me out was when you would walk in and out of a room, there was a chance that you would be transported to the dark version, a "normal" hotel is the location of this game, of the hotel where there's a drone of whispers and murmurs played until you make it back to the Light World Hotel. There would be some rattling of percussion and some small phrases of music played by instruments that were pitch-bended. Pretty creepy stuff.
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Ithunn
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« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2010, 11:41:43 PM »

I need constant sound, even if it is an unwavering lull or hardcore notes. But the type of sounds that heightened the horror experience were the subtle noises like scratches, laughs and then an instant high note. Silence between noises is a good way to get me too. The lack of sound/music wouldn't heighten my senses other than sight really. I think music is more important.
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Tomara
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2010, 04:50:06 AM »

Scary things need to be seen or heard, not both at the same time. Show too much and you leave nothing for the imagination and horror is scariest when you let your imagination run wild. The use of sound and visuals should be limited for the same reason. Walking through and empty hallway, only hearing your own footsteps and an occasional sound you can't quite recognise/explain, maybe catch a glimpse of what could be a ghost in the corner of your eye... That's scary.
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Aeolus
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2010, 12:16:50 PM »

Considering that these days horror consists of people doing stuff in a big wall of black (by witch I mean you can hardly ever see shit), I would consider sounds and music to be the stronger driving force.
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2010, 02:24:31 PM »

Eh... there are not absolutes or rules for this sort of thing. Sorry to be a killjoy, but I think it's sort of a silly question. Everyone will have their own perspective on which is more relevant, most likely biased toward their area of interest. If this is a statistical gathering class, then maybe this question has some merit, but I question the relevance of something like this for, for instance, a psychology or philosophy class. It's a question that really can't be broken down or really examined in any objective way.
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Wild Armor
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2010, 03:10:46 PM »

Eh... there are not absolutes or rules for this sort of thing. Sorry to be a killjoy, but I think it's sort of a silly question. Everyone will have their own perspective on which is more relevant, most likely biased toward their area of interest. If this is a statistical gathering class, then maybe this question has some merit, but I question the relevance of something like this for, for instance, a psychology or philosophy class. It's a question that really can't be broken down or really examined in any objective way.

You could say that I'm also looking for numbers. how about you're opinion then Prime?
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Perley
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2010, 12:29:50 PM »

Visuals hold more stock. Sounds in games (and movies for that matter) are more to of an enhancement to visual. I would be just a creeped out by Silent Hill(the game) if I played it on mute or if I watch Nightmare on Elm Street with no sound as well. In those mediums, the two work in tandem to give you a whole experience. But visual makes up a good 75% of suspense than sound does. If you closed your eyes and listened to the sounds, they have no context thus they have less of an impact.
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FlamingR1ft
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2010, 04:57:07 AM »

Obviously I think it's a mix of both that create the best atmosphere. To me, horror games that focus on one or the other play exceptionally differently. I think it's an argument of East vs West. So to speak. Mind you I only came up with this using a few examples so I'd hardly call it the 'be all and end all of accuracy'.

-- East --
Take Eastern Horror games like Forbidden Siren or Silent Hill and I think the focus is more on the sound. Think about the crackling radio sound in SH when enemies start approaching. Or the clattering down the hall just out of the range of your torchlight? Actually, SH often makes use of a lack of sound. Obviously the visuals are still pretty much equally as important, but sound is a big part of Silent Hill.

Forbidden Siren uses visuals to spook you when you actually encounter enemies. There's a lot less enemies around in FS, but the sound is still there. You can hear them groaning and moaning in the dark as you try to sneak past. It's usually the sound you're keeping check on rather than the visuals (as much of the games are in the dark). Mind you, the sight jacking techniques of seeing through an enemies eyes quickly makes visuals important again.

-- West --
First example I'll use is F.E.A.R. which is a much more visual game. Sound is certainly used (especially in the second game), but it's the visuals they use to freak you out. You're constantly seeing hallucinations and freaked out every time Alma appears out of nowhere, only to quickly disintegrate into ash. It's freaky. But it's visual freaky, not sound freaky.

The second is Eternal Darkness, on Gamecube. The 'sanity' meter this game gives you (kind of like health) usually depletes only when you see a horror. This actually merges the concept of gameplay and visual horror together.

-- Exceptions --
There are two games that break this rule though. The first is Dead Space. A western production that, I'd argue, uses sound more often than visuals to frighten you. It'll let you hear the mutants crawling through the vents, but often you won't see them until later. Of course the ugly creatures, once you see them, are all about visually scaring you. The second is Resident Evil. An Eastern game that uses visuals far more than sound to scare you. You have hordes of zombies at you the whole game plus they'll often jump out to scare you.

But, in the end, horror games are about gameplay. The scariest games, I find, are the survival ones. Where you feel helpless and alone. When you do come across something horrific it's all the more worse because you know there's no one to help you. You have to get out of the situation on your own. Done properly, the atmosphere of the game should make you feel that way.

-- Short Version --
If I had to pick one, though, I'd pick sound. On the basis that even if graphics are appalling (from a technical stand point), a game can still be really scary through use of gameplay and sound. If a game has atrocious sound design, I'd argue it would be less scary. But maybe I just find not being able to see where enemies are scarier personally!
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 04:59:59 AM by FlamingR1ft » Logged



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