Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Ian Reyes

Abstract

The following study is concerned with how immersive experiences are constructed in first-person shooter (FPS) video games through the implementation of “realistic” audio. Bringing together the three fields of video game studies, sound studies, and science and technology studies in its theoretical framework, this study approaches FPS games as commodities, marketed for their capabilities towards providing the player with an immersive and realistic experience, and constructed in particular ways, for particular ends. The first part of this study explores the context of FPS game audio development, from the earliest days of video games in the mid-twentieth century, to the current day. It is argued that the history of FPS games is tightly coupled with the innovation of particular audio reproduction technologies, with the greater history of representation across forms of media, and on a trajectory towards increased immersive realism. The aesthetics of realism as presented in war cinema are taken as a fundamental influence for how immersive and realistic auditory experiences are constructed for contemporary FPS players. The second part of this study takes four FPS games and formally describes them in terms of how the player is positioned as a subject via the game and platform’s audio affordances and disaffordances. Finally, both sections are brought to bear on one another in a diachronic account of how subjects have been (re)positioned via game audio throughout the history of the FPS. Merging these threads, ultimately this study argues that the player-subject of FPS games has been aurally (re)positioned on a trajectory shared with the refinement of audio reproduction technologies towards greater immersive realism. Technological development and the aesthetics of realism, as well as the evolution of FPS games into competitive multiplayer formats, have been mutually influential in this, one necessitating the other in a constant cycle of refinement and occasional decline.

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