Encyclopedia of Computer Graphics and Games

Living Edition
| Editors: Newton Lee

Audiogame

  • Mikhail FiadotauEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-08234-9_194-1

Synonyms

Definitions

An audiogame is a digital game that relies solely or primarily on audio output. Most audiogames can be played by both visually impaired and sighted players.

Introduction

While most digital games today heavily rely on sound in order to communicate information to the player, the role of audio in games is generally less significant than that of graphics (Collins and Kapralos 2012). Some digital games, however, invert this logic by either making graphics secondary to the audio or not using graphics at all, focusing on the sound instead. These are known as audiogames: games “fully playable by reliance on their audio output” (Karhulahti 2015).

For some game designers, stripping away the visual component of the game can be a way to experiment with the medium. Dark Room Sex Game (2008), a party rhythm game playable with the keyboard or Nintendo Wii’s Wiimote controller, is one example, focusing on audio and haptic feedback to simulate sexual intercourse in a dark room (Oldenburg 2013).

More significant is audiogames’ accessibility to visually impaired players, extending the reach of digital games beyond their traditionally assumed audience of sighted people (Friberg and Gärdenfors 2004). Online communities such as Audiogames.net have become hubs for visually impaired gamers, providing game reviews and publicizing events and competitions. The Game List section on Audiogames.net currently lists over 600 titles (most of them developed by hobbyists), though the list is not extensive and primarily focuses on English-language games.

History

Atari’s Touch Me (1974), an arcade and handheld sequence memorization game, is considered to be a precursor to modern audiogames (Karhulahti 2015). While it did not exclusively rely on audio output (the sequence was duplicated as audio tones and light-emitted diodes lighting up), Touch Me could be played without using visual cues, although that would require the player to memorize the correspondence between the tones and the buttons first.

Audiogames for the personal computer became a possibility following the 1984 release of the original Apple Macintosh, which bundled with speech synthesis software MacInTalk. This enabled the Macintosh port of popular text adventure Colossal Cave Adventure to support voice output, making the game accessible to visually impaired users. Other text adventure games followed, making the genre popular with the visually impaired gamer community.

The first notable commercial audiogame was Real Sound: Kaze no Riguretto (1997) developed by WARP Corp. for the Sega Saturn (Matsuo et al. 2016). It was conceived by game designer Kenji Eno after he learned of people with a visual disability who played his previous, visually intensive games by the ear. In terms of gameplay, Real Sound was an interactive radio drama where the player influenced the outcome of the story by choosing between several dialogue options at certain points within the game. While not a commercial success, Real Sound set an important precedent by being an audio-only game released by a major game publisher.

The 2010s have seen a rising number of audiogames appear: Papa Sangre (2010), Sound Swallower (2011), The Nightjar (2011), Blindside (2012), Audio Defence: Zombie Arena (2014), and many others (Beksa et al. 2015). The best-known of them, Papa Sangre (2010), is a survival horror game which takes place in a pitch-black dungeon, where sound positioning and reverberations provide the sole cues for navigation. Many contemporary audiogames, including Papa Sangre, are designed for tablets and smartphones; they also rely on touch controls, raising the question of their accessibility to players with a visual disability.

Some mobile audiogames, on the other hand, combine sound output with Braille writing to create a more accessible for visually impaired players while also helping them master Braille (Araújo et al. 2016). These games, however, may not be easily playable by sighted players who lack Braille literacy.

Design

On a basic level, there are several types of audio cues audiogames can rely on:
  1. 1.

    Tone/pitch: for example, Atari’s Touch Me (1974) and Simon (1978), another memory game inspired by it, used sounds of a different pitch to identify the four key elements used to construct sequences for the player to memorize.

     
  2. 2.

    Rhythm and duration: rhythm games such as PaRappa the Rapper (1996) and Beatmania (1997) emphasize the timing of pressing the controls, and some subsequent games such as 2010’s Rock Band 3 can process actual music parts performed on a MIDI-enabled musical instrument.

     
  3. 3.

    Spatial cues: such games as Papa Sangre and Blindside focus on exploring invisible environments using sonic feedback such as reverberation.

     
  4. 4.

    Narrative: Real Sound: Kaze no Riguretto and the BBC’s The Inspection Chamber (2017) rely on voice narration to communicate the story and use player choices as their core mechanic. Notably, The Inspection Chamber is controlled by voice input from the player instead of conventional controllers such as the keyboard.

     

It should be noted that many of the games mentioned above are not audiogames themselves; they just contain elements which can be used to construct one. These cues can also serve different functions: since audio output becomes the main vehicle for communicating information to the player, game sounds in audiogames need to fulfill a variety of roles, many of which are usually associated with game graphics. Friberg and Gärdenfors (2004), for example, divide sounds in audiogames into avatar, object, character, ornamental, and instruction sounds.

Various combinations of these types of cues and sound functions can be used to create a wide range of game dynamics, from role-playing games (Matsuo et al. 2016) to shooting games (Beksa et al. 2015) to platformers (Oren 2007) to puzzle games such as Preludeamals (2016).

Conclusion

While for most of their history, audiogames enjoyed little popular recognition, their recent resurgence, embodied by such titles as Papa Sangre and The Inspection Chamber, suggests that they do yet have a potential for mainstream acceptance. This leaves hope for the reimagining of digital games as a medium that is accessible to sighted and non-sighted players alike.

Cross-References

References

  1. Araújo, M.C., Silva, A.R., Darin, T.G., de Castro, E.L., Andrade, R., de Lima, E.T., Sánchez, J., de C Filho, J.A., Viana, W.: Design and usability of a braille-based mobile audiogame environment. In: Proceedings of the 31st Annual ACM Symposium on Applied Computing, pp. 232–238. ACM, New York (2016)Google Scholar
  2. Beksa, J., Fizek, S., Carter, P.: Audio games: investigation of the potential through prototype development. In: Biswas, P., Duarte, C., Langdon, P., Almeida, L. (eds.) A Multimodal End-2-End Approach to Accessible Computing, pp. 211–224. Springer, London (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Collins, K., Kapralos, B.: Beyond the screen: what we can learn about game design from audio-based games. In: 5th International Conference on Computer Games, Multimedia and Allied Technology, Bali, Indonesia (2012)Google Scholar
  4. Friberg, J., Gärdenfors, D.: Audio games: new perspectives on game audio. In: Proceedings of the 2004 ACM SIGCHI International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology, pp. 148–154. ACM, New York (2004)Google Scholar
  5. Karhulahti, V.-M.: Defining the videogame. Game Stud. 15, (2015)Google Scholar
  6. Matsuo, M., Sakajiri, M., Miura, T., Onishi, J., Ono, T.: Accessible action RPG for visually impaired gamers: development of a game software and a development environment for the visually impaired. Trans. Virtual Real. Soc. Jpn. 21, 303–312 (2016).  https://doi.org/10.18974/tvrsj.21.2_303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Oldenburg, A.: Sonic mechanics: audio as gameplay. Game Stud. 13, (2013)Google Scholar
  8. Oren, M.A.: Speed sonic across the span: building a platform audio game. In: CHI’07 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 2231–2236. ACM, New York (2007)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of Excellence in Media Innovation and Digital CultureTallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia