Four video game audio designers explore the psychoacoustics of vintage video games, from the accelerating heartbeat of Space Invaders to the dramatic woosh of Myst's linking books. From Wired:
With only a few channels of audio to play with, early videogame designers had to get very creative if they wanted their sounds to stand out. Pong, created in 1972, took a single tone and made it iconic, while Donkey Kong utilized the limited sounds of a Game Boy to trigger a range of cues and emotions.
As the games got more complex, so did the audio, and the theories behind it. A loop, or short, repeated section of audio, acts as a recurring cue. Dissonant sounds communicate failure, while consonant ones—think of the sympathetic vibrations of Super Mario Bros.—encourage players to continue. The tones can even mimic human sounds—a modulating synthesizer approximates laughter, like the “wawawawawa” in Duck Hunt.