A Step Back from Reality: Sound and Presence in Computer Games and Other Worlds

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If, as suggested by Donald T. Campbell,1 the result of our particular abilities in sensing and perceiving is that we are distanced from a fundamental reality,2 then what precisely is the nature and role of presence with respect to that reality? Furthermore, given the theme of this companion, what is the role of sound in relation to presence in virtual gameworlds? These are the two questions that underpin this chapter and to which I provide some answers. One question that might be asked, but which I do not attempt to answer, is: what is the role, if any, of music in presence in virtual gameworlds? The answer to this particular question I leave to the reader to attempt once the companion has been read. Other chapters in this companion deal more directly with music and its relationship to narrative and ludic processes or its abilities to provoke emotion in the game player and to establish meaning. These are areas, I suggest, that might be helpfully informed by answering questions about music and presence. Here, I content myself merely with providing some of the groundwork that will help the reader attempt the question. Before moving on to deal with my two questions, I must first clarify some terminology in order to furnish a framework from within which I can then debate them. I begin with a definition of sound.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Video Game Music
EditorsMelanie Fritsch, Tim Summers
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication date2021
ISBN (Print)978-1-108-47302-6, 978-1-108-46089-7
ISBN (Electronic) 9781108670289
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Sound
  • Immersion
  • Presence
  • Reality


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