The Evolution of Video Game Sound


Here’s a cool little video that shows how video game audio tracks have evolved over the last 30 years or so, with the help of Secret of Monkey Island, a series that’s been around for a long while now.

It’s hard to believe that games like that were even around in 1981, but I think it’s even more hard to believe that we’ve made no advancements in video game sound technology since 1994. I mean, I know sound isn’t that big of a deal, but doesn’t fifteen years seem like an awfully long time to keep the same format? Maybe “it can’t sound any better” but I kind of doubt that.

  • Jason

    It can’t sound any better.

    Or at least, it can’t sound much better.

    The reason: human ears can hear sound from about 20 to 20,000 Hz. You need a variable with a range double that size for technical reasons (both compressions and rarefactions) to store and work with this information efficiently.

    8 bit computing can’t handle a range of numbers this big without major compromises or work-arounds. An 8 bit variable can have a decimal value 0 to 255. 16 bit is 0 to 65,535, which is more than enough to work with this kind of data efficiently. 32 bit (0 to 4+billion) and 64 bit (0 to 18+quintillion! that’s 18 zeros) are both overkill.

    Sure you can theoretically improve the fidelity, but only to a degree that lab equipment or only the most sensitive ears could detect. You’ll get bigger improvements by buying a nicer speaker system.

    So for all intents and purposes, it can’t sound any better.

  • Jason

    and I should have said, “It can’t sound ‘much’ better.”

  • Jason

    ^ at the end there. No edit button, ugh.

  • Jason

    Or what I should have said to sum it all up:

    It can sound better, but it can’t sound much better.

  • cor

    Thanks for the info Jason 🙂

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