Effects of Built-in Audio versus Unrelated Background Music on Performance in an Adventure Role-Playing Game

Effects of Built-in Audio versus Unrelated Background Music on Performance in an Adventure Role-Playing Game

Siu-Lan Tan (Kalamazoo College, USA), John Baxa (Kalamazoo College, USA) and Matthew P. Spackman (Brigham Young University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0029-4.ch010
OnDemand PDF Download:
No Current Special Offers


This article presents an empirical study of the role of video game audio on performance. Twenty participants played The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Wii console for a 45-minute session on five consecutive days. Employing a repeated measures design, the authors exposed players to one orientation session and four sound conditions, i.e., silence, remote control sounds, remote control and screen sounds, and unrelated music played on a boom-box, in a counterbalanced order. Performance was weakest when playing without sound, increasingly stronger with audio emitted by remote control only, and by remote-and-screen respectively. Surprisingly, the highest scores were earned when playing with music that was unrelated to players’ actions or events unfolding on screen. These findings point to the challenges of processing multisensory cues during the initial stages of an elaborate role-playing game, and suggest that the most effective players swiftly develop strategies incorporating task-relevant information conveyed by both sound and images.
Chapter Preview


Video game audio has come a long way since the bleeps and blips of pioneering games such as Pong (Atari, 1972). In particular, as sound design has advanced, the player has taken on an increasingly active role with respect to video game audio. Gamers must decipher cues in the musical score for information about the surrounding environment, and listen for sound effects such as footsteps, which situate the player within the virtual environment. Audio cues alert players to approaching danger, guide them in tracking the moment-to-moment location of enemies, and give immediate feedback on successful execution of actions. Sound can be used to communicate aspects of the narrative, enhance immersion, and convey emotion (Zehnder & Lipscomb, 2006). An increasing number of consoles and games also allow players to select from various musical soundtracks (e.g., de Blob, Blue Tongue Entertainment, 2008) or to incorporate music entirely of their own choice into the gameplay (e.g., Project Gotham Racing 4, Bizarre Creations, 2007). This introduces another sort of control of sound by the player, though this music is not linked to the player’s actions or events occurring in the game.

Despite video game audio’s growing relevance in game design and the wealth of information that it can convey, few empirical studies have examined the role of sound on players’ performance and game experience (Collins, 2007; Hébert, Béland, Dionne-Fournelle, Crête, & Lupien, 2005; Tafalla, 2007). In order to address this important gap in the empirical literature, the present study explores the effects of built-in video game audio and unrelated background music on players’ performance and quality of gaming experience in Twilight Princess for the Wii console.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: