Monday, April 18, 2016

Currently Listening 4.18.16

I've been a little obsessed. This past week has been very busy for me but whenever I found myself with some free time I've played this game, Hyper Light Drifter.

I haven't gotten too far into it, mostly because of work, but the amount of it that I have played I've fully enjoyed.

Aside from the art and the gameplay, which I find completely beautiful and challenging, what I love about this game is its ability to tell a story without any words. The only text you ever get in the game are from the title screen and the opening menu. Here's the opening sequence to give you a taste of the games silent storytelling:

It's stunningly beautiful and artfully cryptic. You get a good sense of what's happening but you don't completely know why. It feels totally alien but at the same time understandable. The art and the animation play a big role in the success of the storytelling, but I feel the music and sound design is what sets this form of storytelling apart.

Solely from the music we get the mood and we get the peek moments. We get the tension and we get the excitement. The sounds are jarring but they work together to create a coherent cacophony. The music tells you what's important and how to feel about them. And in the end it leaves you with a question. A sense of wanting to find more.

That was just the opening. The musical piece was designed to fit that sequence of images. The rest of the game, like any game, is free formed and the music can't completely predict the big moments and important personal feats of the player. At least with the current technology and research.

Music for the rest of the game, functions as a supplement to the world building. As you explore various areas in the game you run into tiny stories and worlds that have been affected by past events. You never exactly know what happened, you're only ever given at most four panels of a story, but the music forces you to feel a certain way about things. It helps you make assumptions and fills in the gaps that non-verbal storytelling leaves out.

It also fills you with a sense of exploration. Hyper Light Drifter is a game that drops you into a world that's almost completely open to you. It encourages you to take your own path and decide the order and magnitude of the story it gives you. What the music needs to do in a game like this, is to make you feel like there's something around the corner waiting for you, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Hyper Light Drifter succeeds in doing that. It's subtle, much like any background music, but it captures your attention.

I've been using this music to concentrate. It's not obtrusive for the most part and it sits well behind anything that you plan on doing. It sure helped me write for my fiction writing class.

I highly recommend this game. If you have no time to play games or if you just refuse to "play" "games" then just listen to the soundtrack in the background. You really do get a sense of the story. It's also a great exercise of the imagination if you make up the story as the music goes without any other supplements. There are great places in the music that you can latch onto that'll direct you into some sort of narrative.


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