While I am researching music video games for my exhibition project, I thought of posting my findings on here for you – just because I gather knowledge on stuff, and it would be a waste not to share it. So what I write about isn’t always up to date, as I myself am only working my way into this field of cultural awesomeness. It is even better if what I find is web-based, as you can instantly play what I write about, like Rich Vreeland aka Disasterpeace’s first video game January.
Actually, I know about “January” for some time now, and played it with a great deal of fascination. Or rather, interacted with it, because it is not a video game in the strict sense, as there is no goal or score to beat. You are controlling a man walking in the falling snow, catching snowflakes with your mouth, and everytime you catch one, a 8-bit MIDI note plays and over time and line by line, a poem gets recited. There are just a few, simple snowflakes at the beginning, but you soon find yourself in a veritable snowstorm, playing different notes and chords by getting different kinds of snowflakes on your tongue.
There is no end to the game, at least as far as I have played it, but evening is setting in eventually and our man is reaching a cottage after a while. I see this game as an interactive music-based art installation, more about the mood and the flow than the catch. But of course you are intent on getting some snowflakes, because you don’t want the music to stop. In the end, it is up to you – and that is what makes it a personal experience.
Rich Vreeland is a game sound composer, currently living in Berkeley. His most notable work besides “January” is his soundtrack for FEZ, an award-winning art puzzle game for Xbox Live Arcade that again is focussing on atmosphere and your experience. “FEZ aims to create a non-threatening world rich with ambiance, a pleasant place to spend time in.” The soundtrack Vreeland put out under his moniker Disasterpeace is perfect to create such an atmosphere, and one of the best chiptune albums out there, as it is not as hectic and patched as 8-bit sounds so often are, but slow and masterfully crafted. Listen to the whole album at Bandcamp.