Forget Music Videos, Here Come Music Video Games

The art of the music video is far from dead—and now it's morphing into video games too.

The art of the music video is far from dead. Sure, MTV might privilege trashy reality TV shows over trashy music videos—but who cares? YouTube is the new MTV! And you don’t have to click very far to find artists employing a myriad of newfangled techniques—from 3D apps to crowd sourcing to interactive browser-based experiments—to push the music video genre into uncharted territories. 

Which brings us to the latest experiment: music video games. For his first EP, Aurora Memoria, the New York-based electronic music producer DV-i is designing a “dating sim”—a hyper-geeky, anime-influenced type of gaming that usually involves dating characters to try and get intimate with them. (Seriously, that’s a thing.) 

In DV-i’s version, the objective is more innocent: you date the characters (one of whom is an Artificial Intelligence-equipped robot) to help them fulfill their goals. And as you burrow into the game’s complex narrative—involving story threads about the government mining human data, nanomachines and quantum computing devices—you’ll also unlock the tracks from the EP, which becomes a fitting soundtrack to this retro-futuristic world. 

One of Aurora Memoria’s avatars that is based on DV-i’s appearance

Of course, DV-i is not the first to eschew traditional music videos in favor of video games. The benefits of interactivity in capturing the attention of today’s drowned-in-sound listeners was discovered early on by pioneers like Peter Gabriel. Similar to Aurora Memoria, Gabriel’s XPLORA1 made players complete puzzles to unlock new content, including video interviews with Gabriel himself. And that was back in 1992. 

More recently, artist Tabor Robak brought to life the lush sci-fi landscape of Gatekeeper’s EXO album with a video game full of “IMAX phantasy” and “drippy acid ecosystems.” During our Skype chat, DV-i cited both Gabriel and Gatekeeper as influences. Like Gatekeeper, DV-i runs with that HD/CG-obsessed crowd ruling the Internet these days and Aurora Memoria will be produced by Chicago’s “cultural producers” Priz Tats later this summer. 

The aesthetic of “futuristic friendliness” in DV-i’s upcoming

Aurora Memoria game

Read our chat below about dating sims, retro-futurism, and why SD cards are the new Minidiscs. Then check out the wacky “promo page” that DV-i designed for this forthcoming EP. It’s designed to look like the desktop of one of his game’s characters

The Creators Project: Hey D.V.! First of all, who the hell are you? 
DV-i: I’m a native New Yorker, and I'm kind of protective about my age. Let’s just say I'm in my mid-20s. I went to Parsons for Design & Tech, and have been making electronic music for the past nine years. The last band I was in, Konnichiwa, got a bit of attention—it was mostly synth-pop with a sort of housey, YEN Records Technopop vibe. 

A 3D model of the technology encountered in DV-i’s game

What made you decide to release your first EP as a “dating sim” game?
I made a short game for Konnichiwa in 2011, for the track “Cryosphere,” but that was more of a 3D exploration game. The dating sim resonates with me both as a perennial fan of anime and narrative-centric gaming.

Well, what do you find particular interesting about anime and narrative gaming?
I’ve been thinking about how age is much more exponential in Internet terms, and to me, anime is representative of youth and futurism. The dating sim sort of forces the reader to interact with a world within the most essential elements possible: character, dialogue, and scene, represented by the main 2D avatar of the character you're interacting with, the background and the text box. 

So how intimate do people get with these avatars? This is a dating sim, after all. 
In some cases it does lead to something romantic, but in the grand scheme of the dating sim world, many of which lead to some pretty explicit things, things are pretty tame and not-very-intimate. It's much more about helping each character fulfill their personal discovery.

What do you mean by “personal discovery”? I hope this game isn’t some New Agey manifesto…
The game is based on helping each character—two female, two male, one Artificial Intelligence—achieve their goal of self-discovery through “dating” them. These aims are fulfilled through a variety of branching dialogue, inventory, and decision trees. For the first single, “Optical Mode,” you have to help a character realize her dream of becoming a musician—then you get to download the track that she creates. 

Do you have to unlock all other tracks in the same way?
No, you can listen to the rest of the tracks on an SD card. I wouldn’t want somebody to have to play the game in order to listen to the music. So the rest of the EP is more setting-based, like a soundtrack. “Fractal Mode” serves as the ending theme, “DigiFamily” is more for hallway and exterior interactions and “Classroom” is for…the classroom. 

Why are you releasing the EP on an SD card?
I love the way physical digital media looks—otherworldly and aesthetically exciting. I was actually trying really hard to get it on Minidisc—which I think is the most futuristic-looking medium out there, at least from a 1990s retrofuturistic fetishistic point of view—but nobody replicates those anymore! 

The 3-D printed case for the SD card
Aurora Memoria will be released on

Were you inspired by other musically-inclined video games while making yours?
I download a ton of PS1 OSTs in my spare time, and a major hint of PS1/PS2 nostalgia very much influences the sound of my music. While I feel like I've been somewhat inspired by things like Peter Gabriel's XPLORA1, Laurie Anderson's Nerve Bible, and Gatekeeper's EXO, I’ve been thinking a lot more about musicians who made music specifically for games, like Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsida, and David Wise. I'm also heavily influenced by that sort of musician that was very excited about multimedia in the early 90s—groups like Severed Heads and P-Model and musicians like Todd Rundgren circa-No World Order.

Hm, that’s really interesting. What does their excitement about multimedia mean to you? 
I think mostly because of their fascination with creating this eclectic audiovisual experience that combines pop music with intense, very electronic visuals, much of which is some hybrid of early CG and early digital video synthesis. It’s the idea of synthesizing some combination of 808 State, Bryan Ferry, and Nam Jun Paik. The music on my EP is primarily pretty heavily influenced by stuff like early IDM, corporate audio logos, and atmospheric jungle, but the ethics and aesthetics that these multimedia musicians convey resonate very intensely with me!

Aurora Memoria will be released on Priz Tats in early September 2013.