What are Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sound? Examples and Explanation PLUS How to – Game Design Theory Game Design by Gigity McD

What are Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sound? Examples and Explanation PLUS How to - Game Design Theory

Useful in both film and game design, learn what diegetic and non-diegetic sound is and listen to examples of each type from different games. Both are powerful tools to better craft soundscapes that will communicate the intent of your work to the audience.

Diegetic sound is the sound that is present within the world of the game. It sound that we can think of as sound that the characters can hear. Footsteps, people talking, cars driving, ambient background noise. All diegetic sounds.

Non-diegetic sound is sound that the characters of the world cannot hear, as it is sound added to what is happening in world for the benefit of the audience. which is usually the player. This takes the form of background music, horror flair accent sounds, voice over and narration as well as for video games, interaction, interface noises or feedback from action that don’t have a logical diegetic sound or that need to be emphasized.

I use games such as Uncharted 4, Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Tomb Raider, Skyrim and Horizon Zero Dawn to demonstrate these two types of sound by giving examples of many different kinds of each.

We end by investigating a strategy for applying these two types of sound to a game. Looking at the objects in your game and deciding if they need any sounds. Thinking about priority of which sounds would need to be louder or in the game at all. Then we talk about adding in the diegetic sounds. Ending on an example of music that communicates by changing with game state.

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5 replies
  1. Ratoa
    Ratoa says:

    Really liked your explanation of sound design changing the mood during gameplay. I can think of many bosses/missions and other setpieces from various games straight off the bat where the soundtrack was arguably the most important aspect. I'm not a game designer by any means but I think it's a shame sound design seems to be an afterthought or at least incredibly underrated in a lot of games. I feel like for a lot of games, it really does have a tremendous impact on the quality of the product as a whole. Enjoyed your coverage of this man, like your content so far, keep it up.

  2. Jemarc Axinto
    Jemarc Axinto says:

    My film studies are coming back to me. I'm So excited you are doing a cha. So like this. Very educated and solid editing my dude. Hitting you with a sub and a like for the vid!

  3. E Dammen
    E Dammen says:

    I'm very glad you made a video about sound design. It's a part of any production that is often neglected, but (depending on who you ask) is 80% of the experience. We can often forgive a low res video on YouTube, but if the sound is distorted or inaudible, we tend to move on to the next video.

    I've always loved the sound design of Zelda games. The opening of chests and finding hidden entrances. Such iconic sound effects!

    The Half Life series is another that has great sound effects. Valve really did a good job in creating sound effects for a whole aresnal of weapons and items that doesn't exit in our world. And the subtle music really puts you on your edge.

    A small shout out to Trent Reznor for his work on the original Quake as well.


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