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Karen Collins

Karen Collins is Canada Research Chair in Interactive Audio at the University of Waterloo. She is the author of Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design (MIT Press).

Titles by This Author

A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games

In Playing with Sound, Karen Collins examines video game sound from the player’s perspective. She explores the many ways that players interact with a game’s sonic aspects—which include not only music but also sound effects, ambient sound, dialogue, and interface sounds—both within and outside of the game. She investigates the ways that meaning is found, embodied, created, evoked, hacked, remixed, negotiated, and renegotiated by players in the space of interactive sound in games.

Drawing on disciplines that range from film studies and philosophy to psychology and computer science, Collins develops a theory of interactive sound experience that distinguishes between interacting with sound and simply listening without interacting. Her conceptual approach combines practice theory (which focuses on productive and consumptive practices around media) and embodied cognition (which holds that our understanding of the world is shaped by our physical interaction with it).

Collins investigates the multimodal experience of sound, image, and touch in games; the role of interactive sound in creating an emotional experience through immersion and identification with the game character; the ways in which sound acts as a mediator for a variety of performative activities; and embodied interactions with sound beyond the game, including machinima, chip-tunes, circuit bending, and other practices that use elements from games in sonic performances.

An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design

A distinguishing feature of video games is their interactivity, and sound plays an important role in this: a player’s actions can trigger dialogue, sound effects, ambient sound, and music. And yet game sound has been neglected in the growing literature on game studies. This book fills that gap, introducing readers to the many complex aspects of game audio, from its development in early games to theoretical discussions of immersion and realism. In Game Sound, Karen Collins draws on a range of sources--including composers, sound designers, voice-over actors and other industry professionals, Internet articles, fan sites, industry conferences, magazines, patent documents, and, of course, the games themselves--to offer a broad overview of the history, theory, and production practice of video game audio. Game Sound has two underlying themes: how and why games are different from or similar to film or other linear audiovisual media; and technology and the constraints it has placed on the production of game audio. Collins focuses first on the historical development of game audio, from penny arcades through the rise of home games and the recent rapid developments in the industry. She then examines the production process for a contemporary game at a large game company, discussing the roles of composers, sound designers, voice talent, and audio programmers; considers the growing presence of licensed intellectual property (particularly popular music and films) in games; and explores the function of audio in games in theoretical terms. Finally, she discusses the difficulties posed by nonlinearity and interactivity for the composer of game music.