Sound Shapes and Dyad are leading an evolution of music in games
This is a digital version of a story that appeared in the print publication of Gamercamp Magazine. Dork Shelf is Gamercamp’s official media sponsor. Gamercamp takes place in Toronto from Nov. 3-4. For more details, click here.
Just as video games have evolved over the decades, so too has its music, which has come a long way since its catchy chiptune-y beginnings. We catch ourselves humming along whenever we hear the do-do-dos of the Super Mario Bros. theme song, anticipating the tempo change once our favourite plumber heads down the pipes and emerges in the indigo underground, accentuated by the bling! bling! bling! of collecting coins. We easily, happily lose ourselves in the nostalgia of it all.
Many of today’s artists have been influenced by iconic music like the Mario theme, but have added their own spin, preventing video game music from being too reverent to nostalgia. There’s been a revolution happening in the independent game space, especially within Canada, to see video games and music become a better-integrated vehicle for one another. A leading example would be Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, which — powered by the catchy melodies by Jim Guthrie — paved the way for games and music to come together more cohesively.
Sound Shapes and Dyad are leading an evolution of music in games hitting the right notes Sound Shapes, a music platformer for the PlayStation 3 and Vita handheld, developed by Toronto-based Queasy Games, is one such game. Co-creators Jon Mak and Shaw-Han Liem cleverly turned the platformer into a musical instrument, where players travelling through a level pick up notes that build into a song — every playthrough gives a unique variation on a song. Each world acts as a musician-specific album, featuring the works of musicians Deadmau5, Beck, Guthrie, and Liem a.k.a. I Am Robot & Proud.
In a similar way, Dyad, an abstract racer for the PS3, tweaks the relationship between music and game. The game features an interactive music system. As creator Shawn McGrath of ][ wrote on the PlayStation blog: “Dyad’s music is reactive, meaning it’s mixed dynamically on the fly, based on the current game state and how you’re interacting with it.”
Often music in games can be static, but not in Dyad. “Each time you play a level, the music is different,” wrote McGrath. “Playing Dyad can be viewed as a ‘performance’ in a sense.”
Music once was a window dressing — albeit a very engaging one — in games, but now developers are thinking about how to change that relationship, with Sound Shapes and Dyad representing the front wave.
Both Queasy founder Jon Mak and ][ founder Shawn McGrath will be presenting the ideas behind their innovative games on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, in the main theatre hall of Gamercamp.