In returning to our fortnightly section ‘Notes’, Game On presents a short, curated collection of games and links that don’t fit elsewhere.
For a little while now, Pitchfork and Kill Screen have been producing music-based games under the banner of Soundplay.
So far, there are four games, and each are very much worth playing:
- Sun God—music by Cut Copy, game by Bennett Foddy
Foddy, who is a former member of Cut Copy (and “by day, a philosopher at Oxford University, who writes about moral issues stemming from new technology,”) and creator of QWOP, one of my most favourite games, has really made something interesting here. Playing Sun God really translates into getting a feel for the music, though the controls do take some time to getting used to. Amazing visuals, too.
- Street Song—music by Matthew Dear, game by Santa Ragione
This is perhaps my least favourite of the Soundplay games so far, though its striking visuals are still well worth giving it a shot for. It’s also worth noting that one of Santa Ragione’s other games, the free-running Fotonica, is one of the most visually interesting games I’ve played in the last few years.
- We Were You—music by M83, game by Jake Elliott
This is a perfect example of why Soundplay works—here is some music that I’d otherwise absolutely loathe (M83—ugh), yet in this context it draws me in and makes the whole experience work. This is the only game here with a narrative, and mostly consists of dialogue choices. A super interesting game.
- Geometry of Love—music by Chromatics, game by Ivan Safrin
This game probably conforms most to what you’d imagine when someone says ‘music game’, with a falling figure that you navigate past musically-generated obstacles. Still, it’s visually impressive and again, well worth playing.
Flawed as some of these games are, they nonetheless illustrate what can be achieved when a clear focus on style and experience is at the core of videogame design. These games are absolutely essential for anyone interested in what can be achieved at the most interesting margins of the medium.
On the one hand, it’s pretty amazing that Artifact have managed to assemble such a large number of designers, and the interviews are all impressively polished and well selected.
On the other, from what I’ve managed to watch so far, the clips are mostly of the sound-bite variety and offer very little depth beyond what we already know of these designers.
Even worse, there’s a shocking lack of pluralism on display. Out of the 35 or so designers interviewed, only three are women. There’s also a frankly embarrassing video with Toby Gard, where he talks with an earth-shattering lack of nuance about designing for, and playing a female character (in this case, Lara Croft). Awful stuff.
There also seems to be an inclination to go towards the orthodoxy of videogames here—it’s mostly a collection of Cliff Bleszinskis, John Carmacks, and Will Wrights in terms of design philosophy. Nonetheless, as I said, there’s an impressive number of interviews here, and you might find some quality in amongst the soundbites.