The Sound of Silence: The Use of Silence In Games

Traversing Open Worlds

Depending on what sort of mood or over arching theme a game is trying to convey, there may be a track that simply keeps you moving forward or a dynamic soundscape that adapts and changes. This changes according to events that occur such as fight scenes, random events or discoveries. However, some games love to make you feel small and insignificant to the bigger picture that is the grand world surrounding you. Whilst others simply want you to feel completely alone as you trudge along to your next destination.


Silence is one of the most trusty tools within the genre of horror. Minimal sound serves as a method to put emphasis on all other aspects. As humans, we are programmed to respond to sound, for example, a car exhaust letting out a sound akin to a gunshot. This causing a massive rush to adrenaline to surge within you involuntarily. It’s a natural reaction and those who create horror titles thrive upon exploiting this.

It’s Quiet… Too Quiet

The former often uses no sound at all for long periods of the game. The player is left to navigate through the dense fog in complete silence, only with the aid of sharp sounds from the pocket radio indicating danger. This has the innate ability to shock the player, sending them into a frenzy to find what lurks in the mist.

As A Game Mechanic

Using silence as a core mechanic is extremely unconventional. Perhaps that is because the technology was never there for the possibility to occur in the past. Plus, even when it became available, it’s not a conventional idea to begin with. Alien: Isolation not only does what the previously mentioned horror games do well but they also use silence as a mechanic. They achieve this through the use of a microphon, when the player is hiding from the alien antagonist that Amanda Ripley is running from all game.

Role Playing

The silent protagonist is, in its own way, using silence as a method of storytelling. This is through allowing the player to project onto the character they are controlling, through these characters being a blank slate within a world of bustling sound, dialogue and personality. It allows the player to project themselves into the character they control and make them in their own image.

To Convey Emotion

Last point of focus is silence and its ability to mirror the speechlessness that comes with an emotional scene. The standard place for this is when the credits roll but some games do their best to meld this with game mechanics to create a truly poignant scene. The most obvious example of this is the ending scene of MGS3: Guns Of The Patriots.




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Anthony Dennis

Anthony Dennis

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