Audio Branding in Gaming

What is audio branding if not telling a story?

I recently published a blog about the use of audio in arcade games, responding to your actions and building cult loyalty because of it.

But as games developed, and graphics and storylines improved to the point of true augmented reality, so too have the soundtracks.

Nowadays, music is used in gaming in a very similar way to the use of music in films.

However, it can be easily argued that it’s far more important: the immersive nature of games involves the consumer much more directly than in film, and thus the music has far greater impact in the experience.

With true scores, the developers dictate how the user feels at certain points of the story.

This starts in the load up, in which the scene is set through the music that is played – creating a sense of anticipation of what is to come.

A great example is found in ‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’, a fanciful post-apocalyptic world with the impending danger of robotic dinosaurs and only a modern-looking bow and arrow to keep your avatar safe.

The music alludes to the vividly colourful fantasy landscape with vulnerable flutes and dramatic violins - with sporadic, quickening bass drums suggesting threats of danger.

Music is then used to develop the storyline.

One of the most memorable gaming moments on the last decade comes courtesy of the use of Skrillex in Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3, during a mission in which the protagonist is tasked with burning down enemy marijuana fields.

Skrillex’s ‘Make it Bun Dem’ is used, a chaotic dubstep track with ragga influences, which creates an atmosphere of simultaneous panic and glee.

The user’s heartbeat is raised, their eyes are wide and there’s without doubt a huge grin on their face as they spray a virtual flamethrower at everything in sight.

Now, I must admit, I’ve never been huge into these RPG masterpieces: I’m a sports boy, defined (as so many of my generation) by various FIFAs, Maddens and Tony Hawks.

And I can say, without hesitation, that not only do I still listen to tracks involved in the soundtracks of these games – but I still know every word, every phrase, and every solo involved in each song used in each soundtrack down the years.

FIFA introduced me to Indie Rock.

And I owe a lot to Madden and Tony Hawk, particularly: they introduced me to so much Hip-Hop.

And now, I’ll be first in line to buy the new Tony Hawk Remaster.

This is audio branding in its most intense form.

It is the prolonged use of music as product sound, in such an immersive atmosphere, that has a deep and meaningful impact on the user.

It’s what transforms a small box and remote, plugged into a television, into something quite magical.

And I can do the same for your brand – I can make it magical.

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