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What's better: ding! or the Howie scream?

Vote now on this important loud decision

Last time, you decided that impossible geometry is better than games playing the music CD left in your drive. As someone definitely not attempting to rig the vote, I respect people on both sides yet am pleased by this outcome. This week, ah sure, why not have another crack at pitting two similar-ish things against each other. It feels against the spirit of the competition but I'm curious. Let's try two sounds. What's better: ding! or the Howie scream?


What's a level-up if no one celebrates your effort with fanfare? Some bigger numbers? More tools to better handle future difficulties? Ugh, no thank you. Give me that ding!

It doesn't have to be a dinging bell, of course. A little orchestral flourish. A dramatic drumroll crashing into a cymbal. Some grand surging of energy. A cool electronic noise which sounds like a hacker jacking into an anti-piracy public service announcement. Some sort of Kitarō synth. An abstract noise which somehow captures the essence of the visual effects bloody well better accompany my level-up. I'll take all your dings, thank you. I also like that "ding!" in MMORPG slang is a little announcement that you've levelled, a prompt for praise and celebration from your pals: a monster ding moment in itself.

A humble ding is especially welcome in an age when special effects and cool celebratory sounds are weaponised against us by loot box opening animations. Sure, levels can be weaponised against us too, especially in free-to-play MMOs, but at least they won't charge me £5 to get an ugly t-shirt for my wizard. And may I cheer you up by saying: ding! Feels good, doesn't it?

The Howie scream

Like its sonic sibling the Wilhelm scream, the Howie scream is a stock sound effect you'll have heard many times in many places. Both have become in-jokes through their repeated reuse, little nods to the artifice and shared history of cinema, easter eggs for the ears of enthusiasts. But while the Wilhelm scream typically appears unedited, typically as the sound of someone falling or being knocked flying, the Howie scream interests me for how often it's reworked and built upon as a sound effect used in earnestness.

The baffling yell layered behind the military fanfare when you click on an Academy in StarCraft? That's the Howie scream. Half-Life 2's fast zombies sometimes scream a sped-up Howie scream while leaping, and the black headcrabs supposedly use an even faster version. Call Of Duty has hidden it in guitar riffs and drum beats. TVTropes lists more uses in games and once you recognise it as a distinct named scream, you start hearing it all over.

Sure, I like a Wilhelm scream well enough, but the Howie scream is the one for me. It treads a fine line between in-joke and practical asset, holding magic without tipping over into tired irony or mugging at the screen while calling attention to itself. Plus its first documented use, in the movie The Ninth Configuration, is very funny:

Cover image for YouTube videoHowie Scream (First Appearance)

But which is better?

I adore a well-disguised Howie but cannot resist the triumphant noise and special effects bonanza of a good ding! Look, I know I'm a pitiable creature easily distracted and thrilled my loud noises and bright colours, and I'm okay with it. But what about you, reader dear?

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We'll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

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About the Author
Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.