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Does Your Video Game Music Affect Player Performance?

Natasha Singh | November 10, 2021

When playing your mobile app games, do you play better with the music and sound effects on or off? Without a doubt, video game music has become a foundational part of the Gen-Y and Millennial growing experience, according to Duncan Jefferies, who has written a fantastic piece on this very subject. 

If you’re a gamer, I’m sure you have a strong opinion on this, but let’s dive into some research and how we’ve approached this with our space physics game, Orbit Path.

Sui-Lan Tan, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, wrote an amazing piece on the psychology of music and how it can affect gameplay for the user. Her work doesn’t stand by itself in this theory: Thousands of other academic studies have been undertaken to further explore the connection between music and video game experience. Considering there are over 2 billion gamers worldwide, it’s a question that holds plenty of significance (and interest!) for 2020. 

Some studies suggest that music can enhance player performance in games.

Considering the vast amount of studies conducted around this topic, it’s not too surprising that the results have varied. It may also point to how different games and scenarios impact different kinds of players. Here is an excerpt from the studies cited by Tan that found audio did have a significant, impact on user performance:  “For instance, Tafalla (2007) found that male gamers scored almost twice as many points while playing the first-person shooter game DOOM with the sound on (chilling music, weapon fire, screams, and labored breathing) compared to those playing with the sound off.”

Some studies suggest that music and sound effects hurt performance.

Still using Tan’s treatise on this topic as the point of reference, there are additional studies cited that point to diminished user performance: “On the other hand, Yamada et al. (2001) found that people had the fastest lap times in the racing game Ridge Racer V when playing with the music off. Interestingly, 10 different music tracks were tested—and the lowest scores were earned when playing with the soundtrack built into the game (Boom Boom Satellite’s “Fogbound”).” This was also found in Tan’s own research.

Some studies have found a mix of complex results.

Parts of Tan’s research discuss studies that yielded unclear or mixed results. These include the following: “Cassidy and MacDonald (2009) tested people playing a driving game with car sounds effects alone or with car sound effects plus different kinds of music. People playing with music that had been shown to be ‘highly arousing’ (in previous research) drove the fastest—but also made the greatest number of mistakes, such as hitting barriers or knocking over road cones!”

Our Take On Game Music

One of Tan’s participants even said this: “There’s more to a game than just high scores. It’s also about being transported and immersed in another world, and music and sound effects are what bring you there.”

And this is what we tried to do when developing a game app like Orbit Path.

Music is best when it’s not intrusive, but complements the gameplay. Sound effects help associate your brain with actions or threats, and gameplay would be difficult without these auditory cues. In addition, the background music, as said above, is responsible to create a new world for the user to escape into, whether they are on the subway, in the park, on their couch or on a plane. Featuring original music by Andre De Girolamo, we tried to make the experience as immersive for the user as we could. We believe the music reflects the simplicity and environment for the user to step in and get lost in play – as always, Blue Label Labs seeks to build the best experiences for end-users by focusing on details far beyond core deliverables. 

But we’ll leave it to our users to decide! Download Orbit Path and see how we’ve put music and sound effects to use in its gameplay.


Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Natasha Singh
+ posts

Senior iOS Developer at Blue Label Labs

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