The undeniable truth about game sound

"I feel sound is half the experience."

- George Lucas 

Audio professionals cling to that quote like a shield.  We use it as a defense when we feel threatened by outside disciplines.  "But, if George Lucas says it, then it has to be true!  Because Star Wars."  I'm not going to tell you it's not true.  That would be counterproductive to the point I aim to make. 

How about this quote? 

"Sound doesn't sell games."

- Anonymous

That one stings a bit. It is the ultimate counter punch to the "Lucas Defense" often employed in the great sound debate by those that don't yet understand the value of sound.  What stings even more, is that it's undeniably true.  It just is.  It’s also a flawed argument, but gaming has historically emphasized graphical fidelity as the key sales motivator.  In more recent years, we've seen a shift in the way people and studios talk about games.  More and more, the emphasis is shifting towards player experience.  Visuals play a huge role in this, but so does design and… wait for it… sound.  Unfortunately, sound is still a black box to many and therefore is often underutilized and undervalued.  That can lead to the perception of apathy.

I've heard "No one cares about audio" a lot in my time in the industry.  It's demonstrably false, of course, but something even I've been guilty of saying myself in moments of frustration.  Accepting this statement as truth is self-defeating and may trigger a defensiveness that's detrimental to the collaborative creative process.  The truth is, It's not that no one cares.  Anyone that cares about the quality of their game wants every aspect of it to be stellar.  However, it's my opinion that it's a lack of understanding what audio's role is and how it can contribute to the goals of the experience.  If you reframe the problem in this way, it starts us on the path of demystifying it for them.  I know it wasn't in the job description, but make no mistake, if you want your team to better understand what audio can do to better the experience, this is part of your job.