With only a month left until its 1st anniversary, I’ve wanted to write about the significance Audiosurf has had on me. I’m both a visual and sonic artist, but I have to admit my first true love was audio (specifically music) without really knowing. Freud would probably blame it on some subconscious suppression, but I think it was my foolish immaturity trying to convince me that audio wasn’t very approachable in a “video-game”. Maybe the descriptor is the real criminal, but it’s too late to go into that sort of thing now (really, why am I still awake at 2am?)
For awhile I was exploring the possibilities of more dynamic rhythm/music games – unhinged from their prepackaged soundtracks and inviting creation into the mix. In no way shape or form did those sessions think up an Audiosurf, Dylan Fitterer did. What he also did was open up a creative dialogue that’s still on the tip of my tongue, and it essentially stems back to level design. It’s these questions of mine that are like a broken record I cannot stop listening to: What is a level? How can you approach making a level? Could you design a level purely through the intentions of sound?
Absolutely you can.
I wonder what kind of level Thom Yorke, Jimmy Paige, or John Cage would make if they knew it would create a digital roller coaster ride. (Below: a hypnotic rendition of Radiohead’s Arpeggi done by Thom Yorke, Johhny Greenwood, and an orchestra).
Audiosurf essentially does a lot of data-mining, and that’s the secret in my opinion. It exchanges the traditional “I make playground. You play in it.” for a sort of one-way sonic Rosetta stone. As long as the file extension says its audio, the game will spit out a level to represent its sonic properties. Being that I write, record, and produce music, playing our own songs in Audiosurf was a real treat. What really got me is when my fellow composers/roommates, while willing to but rarely play games, played the songs too – they were simply awe-struck. One of them mentioned “I wonder what this would be like with that part of the arrangement louder in the mix…”, and it really hit me: you can design sound levels. Of course, music on its own does a damn fine job of being a fun ride, and maybe that’s what the game suits best. It still intrigues me a year later, if that is any consolation.
Bottom line: it opens some exciting doors.