295/365 – Meditation Games #295 – Untrained Musical Experiences

Developer: Jeremy Johnston

Launcher Quote: “Some of my favorite gamedev moments come from meticulously implementing a tiny element that nobody is likely to ever notice. One of our games had a short loop of ambient notes as background music. It was quite atmospheric, and just a touch mysterious. I can’t even tell you why, but on October 25, 207 I decided to add to the mystery.

I don’t have any musical training, but I’ve always loved creating it. I opened our loop in a music program, and then layered deep notes below it and echoed synths atop. The process was imprecise with a lot of humming aloud and playing with notes to recreate what I heard in my head. In the end, my short melody built and ebbed through our ambiance in a way that just…fit.”

Then, I wrote a hidden component to count the loops in our audio and start my secondary song with perfectly timing every 10th play. I have no clue how many users, if any, ever heard it. But whenever I left a level open for a long enough time, it always caught me off guard. And every time, I smiled.”

Playing music and thus being trained in reading it has always been one of the best and most formative experiences I’ve had in my life, and part of it may be because of something that I think the developer who made today’s game realized – that it’s an experience where you’re creating something for the enjoyment of others through a specific sense that you have – in this case, hearing. There’s a kind of joy in discovering a medium which has its own way of communicating and its own language, of which musical notes and compositions from a certain standpoint are.

This game was kind of an anticipatory version of Simon, where you not only are looking to potentially understand a pattern but also to play along with it. It’s the sort of thing that I think accompanies a lot of musical composition and playing for people that are trained in music. You’re trying to come up with something that is pleasing to your ear, follows a bit of musical theory in order to make it not sound like a cacophony of random sounds, and also try to match an overall pattern of sounds. It sounds like a lot of technical detail and perhaps that might have been what drew the developer, someone with no formal training, to the process, but in fact it is a trial and error creative process that I think has a big upside, mostly because the end product is something that sounds good that others can enjoy without needing anything except their ears.

In general, I think the game also reminded me that music in and of itself is a transcendent medium. The fact that someone without training can still come to enjoy it and put out something that was both nice to hear and ended up being an easter egg in their game proves this, and it was also nice to see a music-related game that did something different and took a unique tack other than rhythm or repeating exactly what was on the screen. The adaptability of music has always been one of its greatest strength and it was nice to see that highlighted in this entry.

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