nohero

I have to confess: Guitar Hero kicks ass. There’s nothing better than getting stimulated by several senses in harmony, which is why people love dancing, delicious candlelit dinners or my favourite: snowboarding with music. We seem to dig synesthaesia.  That’s also why rythm action games are so fun (see also Audiosurf and Music Catch) – but what’s really interesting is when the game let’s you play with the music rather than just on it.

Here are three that blur the line between game and musical toy.

Auditorium

Dain Saint and William Stallwood’s Auditorium won the prize for most creative game in this year’s Mochis (which recognises the best Flash games each year). It’s a cross between a musical instrument, a physics based puzzle game and the Aurora Borealis, and seriously addictive. I’d recommend it to anyone.

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BallDroppings

Way back in 2003, designer and artist Josh Nimoy came up with this very simple concept which has since made it to just about every platform, most recently as one of the purely Javacript games in Google’s Chrome Experiments. In the words of Gosfish Games: 

“BallDroppings is an addicting and noisy play-toy. It can also be seen as an emergence game. Alternatively this software can be taken seriously as an audio-visual performance instrument. Balls fall from the top of the screen and bounce off the lines you are drawing with the mouse. The balls make a percussive and melodic sound, whose pitch depends on how fast the ball is moving when it hits the line. This delightful application allows experimentation with sound and vision which will compound and intrigue you. Whether you are an adult or child, scientific brainbox or avid gamer. It doesn’t have a plot, no heroine, no villain. It has no guns or alien beings. It is simply time to get creative, and those who are creative will love this.”

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Reactables

This blurs the line more towards musical toy or synthesiser than game, but I expect is fun in much the same way as BallDroppings. You manipulate a series of blocks (which look like pucks) on a touch sensitive table, with each one either generating or allowing you to manipulate a sound, all by moving them around.

“The way the Reactable works is deeply inspired bymodular analogue synthesizers such as those developed by Bob Moog in the early 60s. Reactable’s pucks represent the building blocks of electronic music, each one having a different functionality in sound generation or in effect processing. While in modular synthesizers one typically had to connect these different modules with patch cables in a complex and error-prone process, on the Reactable this is attained in a much easier and intuitive way, since connections between the pucks are managed automatically based on their types and affinities and on the proximity between them. As a result, one can construct any specific setup quickly and on the fly, by simply moving the pucks and bringing them into proximity with each other. Additionally, the resulting sonic flows are represented graphically on the table surface always showing the real waveforms that travel from one object to the other.”

Why only games?

With tools like Arduino and Processing, it’s surprisingly easy to experiment with ways of combining touch, light and sound in cool and fun ways. The question is: can these techniques also be applied to the more mundane and functional objects around us? Could we inject the same sense of wonder elsewhere? How much more engaging can we make our world?

 

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Michael Dudok de Wit is a master animator and the creator of this short from 2000, which has deservedly won an Oscar, Bafta, Grand Prix at Annecy and a dozen other awards.

It’s called Father and Daughter, and really needs to be seen by any creator who wants an emotional reaction to their work.

It’s a wonderful and inspiring piece of work, not just because it is superb from a technical point of view (that alone should be an example to all interaction designers) but mostly because of the strong feelings it throws up – it’s hard not to be affected, and even drawn to tears.

Wikipedia has this to say about him:

Michael Dudok de Wit (born in 1953, Holland) is an animator, director and illustrator. In 1978, he graduated from the West Surrey College of Art with his first film The Interview. After working for a year in Barcelona, he settled in London where he directs and animates award-winning commercials for television and cinema. In 1992, he created the short film Tom Sweep, followed by The Monk and the Fish (1994), which was made in France with the studio Folimage. This film was nominated for an Oscar and has won numerous prizes including a César Award for Best Short Film and the Cartoon d’Or. Michael also writes and illustrates children’s picture books and teaches animation at art colleges in England and abroad.

His most well-known film Father and Daughter (2000) won an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, the Grand Prix at Annecy, and dozens of other major awards. His most recent short film is “The Aroma of Tea” (2006), drawn entirely with tea.

All of his films since Tom Sweep feature Michael’s trademark brush stroke drawing and his use of ink and watercolour, very much inspired by Chinese and Japanese art.

Check out his other masterpieces below and some of his advertising work on the ACMEfilmworks site.

Tom Sweep (1992)

The Monk and the Fish (1994)

The Aroma of Tea (2006)

 

PS – get this book: Secrets of Oscar-winning Animation: Behind the Scenes of 13 Classic Short Animations

PSS – If you speak French, you can read an extract from the book about Father and Daughter on the publisher’s site and read an interview with the director.