Video Games and Music Pt 1

Michael Jacksons album Bad was actually insired by an obsure video game called Michael Jackson: Moonwalker

Michael Jacksons album Bad was actually insired by an obscure video game called Michael Jackson: Moonwalker

OK, so I am going to admit I am a geek. A big one, but in the world of today that’s actually quite handy. For example the very digital pages you have before you were put together by this pair of rather soft hands. Now how is relevant to you writing on the blog I hear you cry. Well am gonna chat about the geeky topic of video games.

Now. I am a total culture snob who believes in a strict garbage in garbage out policy to my work. I try and only read classics. I tend to try and stay away from multiplex cinemas. I do this because if left to my own devices I know I would just read mills and boon and watch x-men 3,  thus the policy. Amazingly I have managed to translate this level of culture snobbery to the amazing world of video games with the ‘indie games’ scene. Anyhow I am not simply going to write and plug a fantastic art house game that came out last year called the path that was as culturally rich as anything you might find. NO in fact I am going to talk about music video games, and give you a little overview and maybe persuade you to have a go.

Now. The first thing that will jump into peoples heads when I talk about music video games is Rockband and Guitar Hero.  As fun as these past times might be they as nothing but simulations of music (although they may inspire people to take up music and provide interesting new avenue streams for artists). This is for me in no way an interesting experience or use of game art.

So lets go back to the year 1999 when a rather interesting game called Vib Ribbon was released for the PlayStation. It had some rather interesting art direction and simple game-play mechanics that are explained fantastically by the following Japanese only video, see if you can figure out how to play from it;

In addition to the preloaded tracks the cleaver thing about vib ribbon was you could pop your own CD in and the game would generate playable levels based on your music tracks.  Pretty clever stuff for 1999, you dictate the difficultly of your own game by selecting a track. Vib Ribbon was a bit of a flop and no one really paid any attention to it. However a 14 year old Adam Wells saw in it the future.

Now we are going to skip ahead to 2001 and talk about the delightful REZ. If you happen to own a xbox 360 you can get a demo of this experience free of the marketplace right now and I would recommend you do not die without experiencing the joy of this blissful game. Visually its colourful and abstract and represents nothing in our current world. Exactly what I want from a video game. In Rez your actions make up the soundtrack to the game. Sounds like it would never work but it in pratice you physically feel the music run through you like playing and instrument (if an instrument were to play full techno tracks).

Finally I am going to draw your attention to another indie game, that took what Vib Ribbon started and created something alot more advanced. Enter Audio Surf. This game again has a fantastically abstract art direction and will produce levels based on the tracks found on your computer as Wavs or MP3s. You can then play out these delightful levels to your favourite TUNEZ. Its not perfect, but again its a compelling experience that is like nothing else in the video game or music world. As you anticipate tricky sections on the level utilise sing your knowledge of your track. Below is a a video of some one playing song 2 by blur…

I will be back in a few weeks with a few more interesting musical games nibbles to chew on in a few weeks time. Music games have so much potential beyond guitar hero and are an art in themselves.