I'm pretty into multimedia these days. With the fluidity and hyperinteractivity that the internet affords us, it seems almost silly to make art that's just one thing at once. We can overlap texts and media and images of all different kinds and we can make them mutable based on the whims of our observers. Yet aside from sharing their work in this wider forum, artists have barely responded to the possibilities that the internet brings.
That's why I'm always excited to see something like Soundplay, especially if it's bolstered by a media powerhouse like Pitchfork. The music blog of music blogs has partnered bands with game designers to create a multimedia experience that invites the listener to become a participant--a player, if you will. These miniaturized art games both illustrate and employ the songs they're based around, opening them up to a new, multifaceted realm of experience.
While I was a little skeptical that the whole project was just a glorified Intel ad (Intel's its corporate sponsor and they really, really want to be sure you know that), the games beyond the Ultrabook plugs are actually beautiful little experiences worth multiple visits. Two games are currently available on the Soundplay website, and a third promises to join them soon. The first, entitled 'We Were You,' takes root in M83's 'Intro' off their latest double album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. Designed by Jake Elliott, this little slice of audiovisual poetry actually uses the lyrics of its source song to propel the action along.
Player choices are textual and time-sensitive as dialog options rush toward the screen, urging us to channel the story along in time with the music. Because waiting for our choices would disrupt the rhythm of the whole experience, Elliott ensures that we play right on tempo. It's a brilliant little mechanism that's visually stunning, the glowing text integral to the poignant and somewhat esoteric story that unfolds within.
The second game, based around Matthew Dear's 'Street Song,' instead adopts the mechanism of rewarding the player with continuous flows of music. The fewer mistakes you make in-game, the more of the song you get to enjoy. It's a simple game of avoiding obstacles by slaloming left to right, but the geometric visuals are oddly appealing and match the music perfectly. Designed by Italian studio Santa Ragione, the game serves as both a challenge and a meditation on space and sound.
The more gaming becomes a ubiquitous form of media, the more I expect we'll see interactive experiences that approach the level of high art. These two games might not be there yet, but at least they're innovating in the right direction.