ERVAX for 2

Come, poser and fly with me

”ERVAX for 2” is an interactive art piece by composer Anders Monrad and designer Simon Nielsen. We call it both a game and a compositional tool, because even though it looks and plays a bit like an arcade game, part of the point is that the players are creating music. Sort of a Guitar Hero in reverse, where the music does not dictate the gameplay, but is instead generated by playing the game.

What you see here is a work in progress, and an example of the concert version of ERVAX. The tutorial is intended to help the gamer and non-gamer audience alike – this is the form of the game you’d see at a concert.

“ERVAX for 2″ was originally developed with a classical music audience in mind – for the contemporary music event “Nicola’s Nightmare” in Copenhagen, at which members of the audience was invited to play and thus “compose” their own music. The Idea was to integrate a stereotypical contemporary music idiom (serial music/interactive sound-installation) and a stereotypical video game-idiom (8-bit, retro-arcade game-aesthetics). A quirky, unusual combination, which both pays tribute and makes for a bit of gentle satire of both forms.

In the course of 2011 and 2012, “ERVAX for 2″ has been presented at various other occasions – for classical music audiences as well as for more conventional game audiences. In each instance, we have worked to improve the way the piece sounds, plays and presents itself, culminating with a custom faux-arcade cabinet presentation at re-new 2012.

Gameplay-wise, “ERVAX for 2″ is a two-player arcade racing / shoot-em-up. The development of the gameplay was not guided solely by conventional game design wisdom, but partly by consideration for the musical framework as well. This means that in some aspects, it’s a bit of an unfair game and that some details (like, for instance, a clear win condition and even the words “win” and “lose”) have been discarded.

Players of the game will have to select from a roster of characters, each with their own distinct sound and background sound ambience, including: Arnold Schoenberg (the sombre serialist), Stokastiko (the aleatoric entity), XV-32768 (the interstellar robot), Hank Marvin (master of the solid body), and Surfer Dude.

A central feature of “ERVAX for 2″ is the possibility of hearing the resulting composition after finishing the game – thus putting an emphasis on the composition being created during the game.