Callum Collins

Atmospheric Sound Design in Games: Pacing, Engagement, and Environmental Storytelling

Journey to the Lighthouse is a game prototype that, alongside Collins’s research thesis, seeks to demonstrate that game pacing is a key factor in determining player investment in high-agency narrative elements, such as environmental storytelling, and that pacing can be manipulated through both level design and atmospheric sound design.

Collins’s Master of Design thesis seeks to further game sound research by producing artefacts that can serve as case studies for other designers and researchers. These artefacts take the form of game prototypes which explore game sound design to discover what techniques and tools effectively realise the potential of sound as a narrative device and engage the player in the narrative of a game world.

The making processes of this research followed an iterative design methodology, using the methods of conceptualisation, prototyping and evaluation. The case studies Flower, Darkwood and Limbo formed the basis of ideation for the prototypes and served as a reference during iteration and development. These case studies were then used to analyse how sound can be incorporated into a game design process, to further understand its connection to level design and pacing. Journey to the Lighthouse is the final prototype produced using this iterative design process.

Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges
Mandy Smith

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© Centre for Design Research, AUT University 2021