If you want know what it’s like to dig into someone’s chest cavity without a bloody mess, grapefruit will do. Tear, squeeze and crush it in your hands. With a little audio tweaking, sour fruit is now a joke-worthy imitation of gurgling death.
Video game sound engineers have mastered the art of turning mundane noises into the rawest art. The cracking of a walnut becomes the sound of breaking bones. Nickelodeon Green Slime splashed on the floor is a replica of blood, vomit and spilled guts, while using a plunger to sip the same mush conjures up any number of wet, squishy scenarios. Sometimes a developer may even decide to create music with human skull. For genres such as horror, hitting the right note—especially for nasty effects—is key to pairing sound with visuals to create an eerie atmosphere. A developer can’t just throw a player into a dark room and hope it’s scary. They have to sell it.
Motive Studio recently released Dead space the remake doesn’t shy away from that task. The developer even added content warning to the start of his survival horror game: he depicts traumatic events and self-mutilation, in addition to blood, gore, impalement, vomit, and more dismemberment than anyone The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films combined. For horror fans, this is the kind of game that allows viewers to face terrifying and aliens from the safety of a warm couch.
There’s a reason why our brains react so strongly to things like body horror, even when it’s portrayed in a video game. Eric Leonardis, a neuroscience researcher at the Salk Institute, studies the behavior of humans and animals. His history of exploring horror includes the 2022s. ContemptA first-person survival horror game from Ebb Software inspired by the work of H. R. Giger. Contemptthe world is alien, full of flesh and metal, with enough scenes of bone splitting and bloodied muscle. He leans heavily on the sound of horror; squeaks and pops are compensated only by strong wet squelching.
“Body Horrors specifically positions the body as the central source of anxiety and anxiety in these specific stories that unfold,” says Leonardis. It often means “grotesque disturbances or transformations of the body” such as putrefaction, mutilation, or infection. Humans have a natural aversion to anything that can infect or infect us (see also: all incarnations Last of us). “There really is something of a survival aspect to disgust,” he says.
Strong sound design can activate the parts of the brain that affect how we react physically, especially when manipulated in the right context. Crushed fruit might be nice on its own, but pair it with the cave chest visual effect and it will redefine how we handle this noise. The insular cortex, which helps us distinguish between ourselves and others, can trigger the wave of disgust we feel in response. Think of it this way: picking your nose is disgusting, but not as bad as when you see someone else picking theirs.