My early exposure to live sound gave me a unique perspective on curating an audio experience. That was something I leaned on for my initial decade-plus in sound for games and interactive media. I was always anticipating the user’s reaction to prompts, state changes, and general feedback.

Image: Chris at the memorial of Ralph Baer, the “father of video games.” Manchester, NH

I was approaching sound design as as designer first, looking for the desired mood or message over the literal accuracy of the audio. I always embraced the challenge of solving the function with form rather than the other way around.

This point of view made transitioning to working with UX designers on products, devices, and operating systems pretty natural. Over the next decade I learned a lot about the differences and similarities between product UX and game audio, including some preconceived notions both industries have about creating an overall audio experience.

I then returned to AAA games after 10 years away, and I realized while the scale of the work grew exponentially, the approach was still familiar. We were still designing audio for everything and anything, and then letting the systems decide what to bring to the front, based on desired use-case. I find this approach quantitative and, dare I say, inefficient.

I believe in a qualitative approach, focusing on the why over the what. I believe sound designers are designers first, and sound is their vessel of communication, how they get their point across. So why not focus on that point? It’s easier to name the seven or eight sounds needed in a scene than it is to commit to what the user comes away feeling after hearing them.

Image: Exploring synths at Perfect Circuit in Burbank, CA

Regardless of designing sound for a product, a game, a brand, a feature, or a system, I work backwards from identifying the feeling, the point, and the why and then create the audio experience to deliver the audio embodiment of that feeling.

Chris showing his son around his former home studio
Kirkland, WA