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GDC + VRDC 2019 Session Scheduler

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How Music Enhances Virtual Presence

Winifred Phillips  (Composer, Generations Productions, LLC)

Location: Room 3006, West Hall

Date: Thursday, March 21

Time: 2:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Conference, Audio Conference + Tutorial - Get your pass now!

Topic: Audio

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

"Virtual presence" is a state in which gamers fully accept their existence in a virtual world. This talk will explore how game music can enhance virtual presence in VR gaming. The talk will begin with an exploration of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory and Paul Cairns' research on psychological engagement in video gaming. By understanding how player mental activity interacts with game design, composers can create music that induces psychological states conducive to virtual presence. The discussion will include techniques to draw attention to mission objectives, facilitate concentration, enhance emotional empathy and intensify player focus. Also discussed: some of the drawbacks to virtual presence, including its fragility when exposed to negative emotions, and its possible susceptibility to the "event boundary" phenomenon. Musical solutions will be explored. Phillips' talk will offer techniques for composers and audio directors seeking to employ music to enhance virtual presence.


Using several examples, Phillips will explore how music influences mental states through effects documented in scientific research. Study data concerning the interaction between music and cognition will be discussed. Phillips will offer strategies for composers seeking to use music to facilitate the formation of virtual presence.

Intended Audience

This session intends to inspire composers seeking to create music that enhances virtual presence. Includes overview of flow theory and the psychology of virtual presence (may be useful to game designers). Talk will be approachable for all levels (advanced composers may better appreciate the specific composition techniques discussed).