The rock band trio ‘3 Deaf Mice’ needs your help—after losing their hearing to listening to music that was too loud for too long, they are unable to distinguish the sounds and tones needed to create their next big hit. This is where you come in, lending your listening and sound design skills to help produce the band’s next song.
The following scenario is the basis of sound designer David Sonnenschein’s newest project, 3 Deaf Mice, a computer game that stems from the lessons in his book, Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema. Sonnenschein knows something about video games, too, having been an audio consultant on the hit, Mass Effect 3.
“This game is going to promote the idea of listening for the quality of music, not just how loud it is,” explained Sonnenschein. “That’s going to be an implicit message for helping everyone save their ears from abusive, loud sounds.”
The game, which educates users on sound design and hearing health, is geared towards producers, audio engineers, sound designers, composers, music educators and music lovers from the professional and amateur sides. Through a series of audio puzzles, treasure hunts and transformations, players will help the mice collect specific sounds for their song. Once the player completes a puzzle, he or she unlocks one of 10 audio tracks that will later be arranged into the final song for the band.
“The idea is to make this an open door for those who haven’t been trained with audio production,” said Sonnenschein. “It’s very accessible and intuitive. The game levels increase in difficulty, so professionals also have enough challenges as they get farther into the game and the song.”
Sonnenschein holds two bachelor’s degrees—one in music and the other in neuroscience—and a master’s in cinema and television, and has worked as a sound designer and educator for a number of years.
“My own experiences as a musician awakened me to the power of sound and how it transforms,” he said. “(The game) is going to teach people how to listen to our world. We often think of the meaning of music as the intention of the lyrics, but of course, we also have the meaning of instruments and the way the sound is recorded and mixed. The player is going to learn about all these different levels of listening and creating with sound.”
3 Deaf Mice will also address the importance of hearing loss prevention.
“The game is meant as a precautionary tale, and not in a subtle way—it’s in the title. The mice are going to be hard at hearing, so we’ll have them misunderstand each other with some hilarious dialogue.”
To record the actual tracks for the game, Sonnenschein said he is using a Sennheiser K3 mic with a ME80 module for location recordings, while in the studio, he is using a Rode N1A mic. “The N1A captures everything, so on location, it’s not so great, but in a studio, it has a great frequency response,” he explained.
In post-production, Sonnenschein used Avid Pro Tools for the sound and music, and is using a video game creation software called Unity to create the entire project.
Addressing the challenge of keeping players focused on the audio aspect of the game, Sonnenschein said the graphics for the game will be simple and two dimensional. “This game is really about exploring the sources, shapes and meanings of sound and how we can play with them and create musical structures,” he said.
Another challenge creators face is the ability to keep players interested in the game after they play through it once. “The key to that is the remixing of this song,” said Sonnenschein. “Once they get to the unlocking of tracks and verses, they can discover new ways to combine the lyrics, music and sounds.”
Ultimately, Sonnenschein wants to make the game even more interactive, holding contests for people to submit their own sounds to the game. Of course, that idea will only happen after the success of the game.
“We have many, many plans for after the first version. With community support, Kickstarter will help us get the first one out there,” Sonnenschein said.
For more information on the 3 Deaf Mice game or to support its development, visit the 3 Deaf Mice Kickstarter page at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/927302375/3-deaf-mice-the-music-puzzle-game?ref=email/