The beauty of limitations: Wanderword and the storytelling opportunities of audio gaming
Updated: Jun 22, 2021
It’s tempting to claim games like Cursed Painting represent an emerging niche in the industry. This interactive role-playing game draws on gameplay mechanics similar to Dungeons and Dragons, but it's played via the Alexa app. That means it’s audio-only.
Wanderword, the game’s creator, calls this and the other titles in its portfolio interactive audio entertainment.
But as Wanderword’s Lead Designer Henrik Lindfors will tell you, audio is central to every standout gaming experience, even if it’s not what players think of when engaging in the gameworlds they love. “As a user, you convey your actions in the game either through a mouse, keyboard, or controller - that’s one mode of input,” Henrik explains. “But as far as output, you have the graphical aspect and the audio - two modes of output.”
The challenge for the Wanderword team is not simply top sound design. That should be a priority for every studio. Instead, Henrik and his team must use sound to “portray the graphical aspects of the experience with sound.”
Henrik spoke about the company’s design approach on 12 March as part of Friday Stories. We caught up with him beforehand to find out how he became involved with Wanderword and why he thinks there’s no one standing in their way.
Timing is everything
After 12 years working in radio, Henrik shifted to the games industry when “unheard of” investment was made in Boden’s future as a games hub. After an internship with “a weird little company from Seattle that dabbled in interactive audio entertainment,” Henrik found firm footing in the industry with Wanderword. Unsurprisingly, his background in radio meant Henrik understood the company’s mission to design audio-based games, and he started his ascent from intern to Lead Designer.
In 2021, the company expects significant growth following the success of Cursed Painting and other very different games. This success has reinforced Henrik’s belief that too many studios - and aspiring students - get sound design wrong.