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Hardcover | $36.00 Short | £29.95 | 200 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 27 b&w illus. | January 2013 | ISBN: 9780262018678
eBook | $25.00 Short | January 2013 | ISBN: 9780262312288
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Playing with Sound

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.

About the Author

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).


“Karen Collins’s Playing with Sound: A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games is a comprehensive and compelling look at players’ use of sound in video games, which examines the topic from a variety of angles and within a range of different contexts. Collins delivers another fascinating book on game sound destined to be a classic in the area of game sound scholarship.”
Mark J. P. Wolf, Chair, Communications Department, Concordia University, Wisconsin
“With Playing with Sound, Karen Collins cements her status as the foremost expert on game sound and music. This richly detailed and well-argued text pushes forward the field of game studies to acknowledge the key role that sound plays in the experience of playing video games. Collins tackles the subject from the player’s point of view, arguing that we don't merely listen to sound but interact with it to create believable worlds and inhabit memorable characters across a universe of videogames.”
Mia Consalvo, Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design, Concordia University