Audio Branding in Arcade Games

The history of music in gaming is rich and fascinating – and it can tell us a ton about how to properly audio brand UX design on a website, or app, today.

This is because every action you make in one of these games produces an audible response – constantly engaging and creating a relationship with the user. 

This builds the loyalty that shoots arcade games, like the ones I’m about to discuss, to cult status. 

It started with small, MIDI sounds in old school arcade games. The sounds that could be made were extraordinarily limited due to the memory space on the original computer chips. 

In PONG, one of the first ever video games created, a small, unassuming ‘beep’ is produced to signify that you’ve hit the ball. 

And when the ball passed your bat, an aggressive, slightly longer buzz told you the mistake you’d made.

Similarly, in Asteroids, basic sounds interact with the player to let them know about their progress; a beep emitted from your ship as you let out a shot, with asteroids exploding audibly in front of you. 

Backtracking this, two semitones, alternated, sped up to indicate the increasing difficulty of the level. 

The game told you how hard it was making it for you. 

The same is found in PacMan: eating dots produces the trademark “Waca-Waca”, with more important achievements being met with more elaborate sounds, as a reward. 

As you completed a level, there was a cut scene, with tension-filled music using the same sounds as found in the game indicating to you that the chase was still on. 

You, as the user, were constantly talked to by the game. 

And the same is found in Tekken, and Street Fighter, and all of the other cult arcade games people know so well and love. 

The most famous music from this era of gaming, though, comes undoubtably from two chipper Italian plumbers. 

The jaunty, short synthesised notes that accompany our beloved Super Mario Bro’s through their journeys to rescue Princess Peach have developed over time to become the distinct and famous audio brand of Nintendo; with the bleeps softened over time and integrated into the Wii console, and now the Switch. 

The style of the music even bled into every Pokemon series they’ve completed, in which they began to play with the key of the music to reflect the different settings our protagonist found himself in. 

It is an Audio UX design that hasn’t only captured one generation: but the one after, and the one after that too. 

And you should be using the same principles on your website, or in your app UX design – taking the sound of your brand, and using them to create a relationship with your customer as they interact with you. 

Come and ask me how: