Class meeting #9 – Interactive music visualizations – Monday 10/29



Watch this short video review of the PC version of Dylan Fitterer’s video game Audiosurf (2008), and using ideas from the assigned readings, compare and contrast the experience of playing Audiosurf with that of Guitar Hero and/or Rock Band (described in Moseley). Your short (150-200) response may touch on how varying degrees of “interactivity” (as understood by Collins) are afforded by each game’s distinct mechanics, questions of immersion/virtuality, the (percieved) difference between active and passive listening, and/or score vs. audio-based visualization techniques.

6 thoughts on “Class meeting #9 – Interactive music visualizations – Monday 10/29

  1. lnl2110

    Collins writes that interactivity between the game and the player depends on how much control they have over it. Mosely describes the experience and setup of guitar hero as playing the laying the music “back” on the toy guitar and playing “along with” the music. Interactivity is defined by feedback and control, and the player’s enjoyment is often contingent on how much control they have. In the game Audiosurf, the music provides both feedback and can be controlled by the player. The Audiosurf reviewer stressed multiple times that he was a music snob, and enjoyed playing the game because he could choose the music. Having a choice of the music not only increases the enjoyment of the player because they enjoy the music, but allows them to physically respond more quickly because they know the music. The different characters that he can choose allow him to interpret the feedback in different ways, which correspond with the different types of feedback in Collins, because the characters build their blocks in different ways, which changes the meaning of what the blocks mean musically as he moves through space.

  2. clj2142

    AudioSurf differs from Guitar Hero and Rock Band in that it makes no attempt at realism. The visuals are abstract and simple: just a car, a track, and multicolored rectangles. Guitar Hero and Rock Band both attempt to simulate the experience of a real guitar player or rock star without the need for extensive musical training.
    AudioSurf generates an alternate world based solely on the music being played, whereas the other two games are more connected with reality: they feature instrument-like controllers and require interaction and collaboration with other players, similar to a real musical performance.
    The three games all involve a shape or visual that represents elements of the songs (notes, rhythms), though these visuals serve as instructions within Guitar Hero and Rock Band versus a more abstract way to accumulate points in AudioSurf.
    AudioSurf is a more personal game in that you can choose the music you would like to play, which cannot be done in Guitar Hero or Rock Band unless you modify the software in some way.

  3. erc2175

    Guitar Hero and Rock Band are games that rely on a tight coordination between game mechanics and the music itself. Moseley’s article focused in large part on the imitative nature of the game: that those who picked up a Guitar Hero controller were in fact imitating some reduced version of being an actual, genuine rock star; that the campaign and progression of the game reflects this transformation of the player into creator, of the superimposition of the mythical reality of the rock-‘n’-roll guitarist on the simple action of playing a game with a redesigned, simplified guitar controller. Moseley also focused on the ensuing connections drawn allegedly by the game between play and music-making. Collins’s article also focuses on interactive sound. Guitar Hero presents sound that is interactive to the point of being one-on-one – where the player can imagine themselves supplanting the role of the musician, even though they are just a listener.

    To say the least, Audiosurf is not like this. Instead of allowing the user to slip into the musician role, Audiosurf allows the player to take on the role of game designer (or at least level designer) by giving them a choice of music. When a player plays a level in Audiosurf, they are not interacting heavily with the sound – it is a rhythm game, but one that functions more as an arcade game, with the player dashing between different objectives and performing operations of mental calculus to decide their next move. The player thus does not hold the (artificial) relationship with music of originator or creator, but instead the relationship of owner. The game does not allow the player to “make their mark” on the music. It is the reverse; the music allows the player to make their mark on the game itself.

  4. yh2825

    Guitar Hero possesses the key ingredients of game interactivity, through resembling the controls of music “reproduction” and providing musical feedbacks to the players. Although it is able to use a traditional Xbox controller to play the game, the game instead employs the guitar-shaped controller to provide more immersive play. The game also gives the vocalist player the option to change the octave, which arguably reduces the difficulty for the players to reproduce the vocals. It is these controls that Guitar Hero provides to its players that blurred the line between “work” and “play” – the modularized control interface and software hacking reproduces the process of professional music performance and provides the players the immersive band experience, which is probably the reason that the game faced criticism from the music professionals. On the other hand, the virtual audience and the metrical evaluations gives the players direct and visual feedback, which supplements the immersive experience.
    However, the elements of interactivity is not that clear in Audiosurf. Audiosurf rates the performance of the player through a single score – which is much more singular and plain than a group of virtual audience. The controls provided to the players, although varies in gameplay difficulty, does not necessarily ties to immersive play. Also, it is not clear to me that how the visual elements corresponds to the audio, as the rules and gameplay are not intuitive with regard to the music – the interface is similar to many rhythm games; however, it seems that the game rules is more complex than “hitting the bricks at the right time” and thus it reduces the interactivity between the audio and the player.

  5. spn2120

    Collins describes a triangle diagram in which music begins with the composer’s labor, moves to the artist’s performance and interpretation, and reacts with the listener, who experiences the music during performance and may sing/play along as well. Mosley classifies different types of games- some that are meant to create fun through puzzles and games, others that are competition based, chance, simulation, and physical “vertigo.” Audiosurf seems to combine elements of all of these theories; it reads your existing music, creating a dialogue with yourself as you assume the role of a composer (imagine a composer playing his own music and reacting to it- how does that subvert Collins’ triangle diagram?) The narrator notes that the selling point is the “style and execution” in which the game reads one’s personal music library, and randomly changes the beat or feel of it- rocking it up, etc. If I understand the review correctly, it seems that Audiosurf creates levels based on the most and least intensifying parts of the music, and the player is only competing against himself in trying to get a higher score than before. In this way, it resembles the paidia or carefree feeling of playing against one’s self, yet is competitive in that playings are rated with scores (agon) There is an element of chance, as the player knows the foundation of the game, or the source of the music, but has no idea how Audiosurf will read it and construct a game from it. The medium for spectacle or simulation in this example seems to be the computer itself. Whereas guitarhero includes a “toy” such as a plastic guitar or even a controller that mimics a real guitar, the computer as a medium is almost self-reflexive of its own source material, as audiosurf reads the music files from the computer itself. In this way, it’s entirely self contained.

  6. ijg2112

    Darley states that the verisimilitude of a media form became its “main sign of success and progress” as computer graphics and visual simulation evolved. He claims that a more realistic gaming environment increases the player’s feeling of immersion in the game. It appears that the creators of Guitar Hero conformed to the ideals of what makes a game ‘better’ than others while the creators of Audiosurf focused more on making the gamescape customizable towards the player’s musical preferences.
    This difference in degree of immersion between the two games is largely due to the way in which each game allows the player to interact with it. By Collins’ understanding of interactivity, Guitar Hero includes a fair amount of both feedback and control, while Audiosurf has very limited control and no feedback. In both games, the player has control of the overarching soundscape of their gaming experience, however, that’s where the similarities end. Though the player’s song options are limited in Guitar Hero, the player can change how that songs sounds throughout the game through both control and feedback. In Audiosurf, the audio during a game instance does not change once the initial song has been chosen.
    This difference in interactivity changes the way in which users play with the music of each game. In Audiosurf, there is no benefit, in respect to audio, from the player either conforming or rebelling against the rules of the game. So, Audiosurf does not necessarily support paidia or ludus, both of which are ideas that Mosley showed could change a gaming experience. In the case of Guitar Hero, both ludus and paidia are encouraged in their own ways. As Mosley mentions, ludus is encouraged by the game providing the player-expected output when the player provides the computer-expected input. Paidia is encouraged through the use of motion sensors and score bonuses from creative movement of the instrument (Mosley).
    The purpose of each game is inherently different and this appears quite obviously in the way the creators designed each game to allow for player immersion and interactivity.

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