Effects of Switching Audio Cues in Survival Horror Games on Level of Fear
Sound is an important element that can make video games more realistic and immersive. It is essential to the genre of survival horror, as it has the known ability to cause certain emotions in players. Aside from scaring players, sound can be used to give information about the game state in the form of audio cues. While previous research into audio cues was mostly non-empirical, they have provided interesting observations, such as the possibility of unreliable audio cues increasing fear in players. This work studies the effects of audio cues on players’ levels of fear in an experiment using a modified version of an existing survival horror game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Thirty participants were exposed to two game conditions: (a) normal audio cues, and (b) mixed audio cues that give incorrect information about the game state. Participants were asked to rate their fear levels verbally during gameplay, and in a survey after gameplay. Results showed no statistically significant difference in fear ratings between the two conditions. However, it was observed that players’ fear levels increase if the game starts with reliable audio cues that eventually become unreliable. Additionally, participants got more scared of an encounter with a monster without reliable audio cues. Results also showed a dependent relationship between game difficulty, participants’ fear rating, and enjoyment rating. Our study provides implications for game developers to make scarier and more effective horror games.
Gizem Kockesen, "Effects of Switching Audio Cues in Survival Horror Games on Level of Fear", Master's Thesis for the Media Technology programme, Leiden University (The Netherlands), 2015