AUDIO: Need some sound with that?

With all of the music streaming services available online these days, there are plenty of ways that players can create highly atmospheric and immersive playlists for their next gaming session. For those who enjoy some background sound when playing, why settle for just ordinary music when you can experience something that will suit your adventure much better?

I’m not going to publish any specific playlists in this article, as that would be rather presumptuous. Instead, I’ll note some of the more interesting audio/mood services currently out there to choose from, and recommend a few OSTs (Original Sound Tracks) that may also fit your needs. Firstly, let’s talk about background noise!

Atmosphere is everything when it comes to gaming, especially in gamebooks and role-playing games where you are an active participant within an imaginative game world. Back when I was Game Mastering the Swedish contemporary horror RPG Kult, I would enhance the player experience by triggering audio samples on an Amiga 1200, use special mix CDs, and queue specific film scenes to add flavour and mood to the game. Today, however, there are numerous websites to do all that for you!

The reason why I stumbled upon adding background noise is because I own an arcade game and a pinball machine (1979’s Totem by Gottlieb). Sure it’s fun to play some games with your friends, but it’s even better when you have the right atmosphere. Beer, chicken wings and popcorn only go so far, but with some cool audio sending you back into that ’80s arcade of endless noise, colour and excitement – that’s when you’re really starting to have fun!

A while back I noticed that more and more websites were popping up with different types of atmospheric sounds. The Arcade Ambiance Project is one of these sites. Here you can choose ambient background sound from 1981, 1983, 1986 and 1991 arcade halls. You’ll find arcade games, pinballs, some additional voices and atmosphere – enough to get some really interesting gaming going!

There’s too few arcade- and pinball-themed gamebooks available (I know, I wrote one!), so this style of background atmosphere may not be suitable for your experience – but there are other services out there that will do the trick.

Noisli – for adventures in the woods

Noisli is mainly forest and outdoor themed, but you have the ability control a lot of the atmosphere yourself. You can adjust the rain, thunder, birds, wind etc., and the White, Pink and Brown noise are particularly impressive features. As with other services described below, Noisli features café sounds, fans, trains and even a ‘summer nights’ setting. With a Pro account you can add extra sounds to play with, such as: airplane, cicadas, cityscape and bubbles.

Noisli has settings for sessions and timers, and overall it’s an interesting service that offers a decent selection of options in its free account. Using Noisli in the background of your fantasy game (and maybe even cyberpunk or sci-fi with the Pro cityscape sounds) could be interesting if used together with a well-crafted playlist.

Moszen – the free minimalistic gaming experience

A similar service to Noisli, with comparable audio but a few more sounds to choose from, Moszen offers less interactivity. Where you can mix the sound more effectively at Noisli, Moszen has already done the work for you. All of their sounds are based on a photograph, which corresponds to a genre, such as: forest, jungle, river, lake, and so on.

Moszen is much more minimalistic, but it’s easier to switch around depending on where you are in the game (just click on another picture). Overall though, it’s fairly limited and really only features more of the same. However, if you’re looking for something truly simple, this is it. Moszen is entirely free, with no sign-up required.

Noises Online – a free Noisli mix that clicks

Noises Online is another ambience-in-a-browser setup where you choose from categories of sounds. Clicking on a category turns the sound on, but click it again and again, and the volume lowers until turned off. The sounds are very similar to those found in Noisli, so much so that I wonder if the source is actually the same. Either way, the site is totally free (no login needed), although it may have slightly fewer choices than Noisli. Noises Online also offers the function to save as a WAV, and save the setup as a URL for later use.

The frog sounds are cool, ‘heat wave’ is a nice noise, and the White, Pink and Brown noise are here as well. ‘Cocktail voices’ is also a nice addition to any bar or restaurant setting.

TMSoft – for your noisy sci-fi story

TMSoft is an altogether different type of beast. This is a place for noise – pure noise and nothing else! Here you have White noise, Pink noise, TV noise – you name it! There’s even fan noise. All this is made to make you sleep better, they say – but for a solo gamebook player this could prove pretty interesting when mixed together with a playlist, or even together, or separate, from one of the other featured services. These are all downloads though – not listen-in-the-browser.

TMSoft is software-based, so you will have to download their app or program for your specific device. There’s a browser version too, but it’s limited to Blue, Purple, Pink, White, Grey and Brown noise. TMSoft is probably best used as the background to a sci-fi or cyberpunk adventure, since this is digital noise at its best. If you mix it with suitable music, you’ll have some great ambient background sound happening.

myNoise – high quality ambiance for any game genre

myNoise is one of the more interesting – and in my opinion, the best – ambient background creators out there. This is also a listen-in-the-browser service, but with a pretty nifty mixer, some truly interesting categories and features some high quality sounds. The ‘Gregorian Chant’ is perfect for an epic fantasy adventure, ‘Japanese Garden’ is a must for your samurai- or ninja-themed game, and ‘Twin Black Lodges’ will make any horror game an unforgettable nightmare!

I love myNoise, and this is probably the best background creator you’ll find for playing a solo gamebook. It’s easy to choose a new category, fast to mix on the fly to achieve something new and exciting, and the tunes/sounds are not as repetitive as initially expected. myNoise has tons of different categories: click the ‘Show me the entire directory’ link at the bottom of the main page and you’ll see a bunch of other patterns and noise machines. They have clickable mixes like ‘Happy place’ that deliver a mood of sounds and music that are perfect for the end of a fantasy adventure, and ‘Airport terminal’ works amazingly well as the background for a sci-fi themed city-based story.

Not only is myNoise a great in-browser ambiance creator – it’s also totally free. They do ask for Patreon and PayPal donations, so if you use it regularly, consider giving them a few bucks for such an amazing service. The only limitation that I can identify is that myNoise (with most mixes) doesn’t work particularly well with additional music. So if you’re using myNoise, then that is pretty much it, as attempting to add music on top will only produce a very weird audio experience.

Now, there are other options out there as well – lots of them. You might want to search around the web and see what you can discover for yourself, and of course there are tons of 10 hour-mixes on YouTube that might get you headed in the right direction as well.

Now let’s dive a little deeper…

To make it more interesting you can play music on top of most of these ambiance services. Almost all are playable in your browser, so you can easily stream Spotify (or another application of your choice) at the same time. Create a music playlist for your next game by choosing the tunes you believe will match the mood, turn on your favorite ambiance app, and play!

Original Sound Track

Lets look at some examples:

The Aliens (1986) OST is amazing for a sci-fi game full of action, and the Alien (1979) OST works well for both sci-fi and contemporary horror. For fantasy, check out the soundtracks to The Lord of the Rings movies (epic!) or Willow (1988), which is dramatic, but in parts quite jolly and much brighter.

If you’re playing a manga gamebook, your favourite anime OST may offer exactly what you’re looking for, and most are flawlessly produced. There are also many to choose from due to anime’s worldwide popularity, so the range of styles available is considerable.

For contemporary gamebooks, take a look at modern movies, although some OSTs simply don’t work. Mission Impossible and Terminator are movies full of thrilling music, but the themes will be so recognisable to most listeners that concentrating on the game won’t be easy. Have a listen to some less well-known movies instead. YouTube is your friend here: just search for the movie name with ‘OST’ added to it, or search at the streaming service of your choice.

On a normal computer you should be able to use the playlist (or OST) together with one of the ambiance sound sources above. This mix might prove to be the best way to get into the right mood, making your next gaming session a real interactive experience. But then again, some people simply want to play alone in a quiet room – that’s perfectly OK too. Enjoy!

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