Sound and Immersion in Timekiller Games (2015)

Anahid Kassabian

About this exposition

In this article, I consider the role of sound in the immersive experience of “timekiller games.” “Timekiller games” as I define them here are a subset of casual games that are mainly played on smartphones and browsers, and while there are many subgenres, they share an ability not only to use up significant chunks of player time, but for the most part to “kill time” while waiting, winding down, procrastinating, and so on. I argue that the hyperreality of these games’ sounds, which imply physical reality much more vividly than the games’ visual designs, is one important component that helps to keep players immersed in the game world. Immersion in video games is overdetermined, and the choice of hyperreal sounds is one among a number of strategies that intersect and overlap to create an immersive experience particular to timekiller games. As the games get more challenging, requiring more and more focus, they shift roles in the attention economy, demanding more attention (as suggested by the idea of “challenge-based immersion” [Ermi and Mäyrä 2005]). This immersive experience is a kind of affective labor in which players produce affective value for the company and the industry and which is converted back and forth into “pay to win” in-app/in-game purchases. The games thus have a mixed economic form, in which their revenue streams come from a combination of initial purchases (though often these games are free to download), banner advertising at the bottom of the screen, and in-app purchasing to get past a particularly challenging level or obstacle. Thus: 1) playing timekiller games demands increasing levels of attention; 2) the games participate in the attention economy, despite appearing to be simple little timekillers; 3) the games produce affective value; 4) players and games participate in a mixed economic model of game purchase, advertising, and in–app purchases, converting affective value into material value and back again; and 5) the player is re-inserted into the attention economy to produce further affective value, thus continuing the circuit.
typeresearch exposition
keywordsJournal of Sonic studies, immersion, sound, Timekiller games
last modified28/10/2015
share statusprivate
licenseAll rights reserved
published inJournal of Sonic Studies
portal issue10. Issue 10

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