The world has this problem, where all of the stories being told are about heterosexual, white, cis men. I’m not going to get statistical on you, because I’m sure you’ve seen it before. The podcasting community is where you find the people who are changing that.
Radio, and by extension audio fiction, is described by Dr. Guy Starkey as a ‘friend who is telling me what I cannot see’. However, when it comes to making immersive sound design, a different definition is needed. It is not a matter of simply leading a listener by the hand and describing the things he sees, it is to instead to create an accessible version of someone else's reality; someone else’s understanding of the world, one that is immersive, textured and real. Therefore, the description of immersive sound design might be a ‘friend who lets me wear their brain as a hat.’ In this article I will attempt to unpack how I make immersive sound design with my handy dandy step by step guide to turning a brain into a hat.
If you were to have talked to me a bit over a year ago and asked me about podcasts, I would have just shrugged and said that one of my friends was really into them and that would have been the extent of my knowledge. I really only thought of podcasts as information streams, since that is what my friend listened to. They were simply an audio medium to learn stuff from.
I started listening to podcasts about five years ago, back when I was a tiny high schooler. I started in the most stereotypical way: listening to Welcome to Night Vale. I quickly fell in love, listening to it with my mom as we painted my room bright purple. I even got to go to one of their live shows (I still have the t-shirt). But I never strayed past Night Vale’s borders. I didn’t really feel the need to.
When I look back on the last few years, it's difficult to imagine where I would be without actual play podcasts. In a very real sense, I owe a great deal of who and what I am to the medium. And I think it's safe to say, that thanks to a wonderful community and mode of expression that has unlocked so much of the person I want to be, I am happier and better thanks to a decision to try something entirely different.
It started with listening. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, CritJuice, Finding Richard Simmons. It morphed into this massive array of shows I would dabble in and try out, always looking for something more. I caught on to Dragon Talk from Wizards of the Coast and they were interviewing all of these fledgling Actual Play podcasts that in 2016 no one had heard about, but suddenly had massive demographics after an interview on Dragon Talk.