How Psychedelic Games 'Rez Infinite,' 'Thumper' Fuse Electronic Music With Virtual Reality
Some of your favorite classic games are getting a virtual reality make-over to up the psychedelic experience.This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone
Virtual reality and electronic music might just be the new peanut butter and jelly of gaming.
Both are "immersive" formats, surrounding and enveloping the user—less windows to other worlds, and more cocoons of physical, sensory experience. That combo is increasingly on the menu, with VR stations already making their way into music festivals, and artists ranging from Radiohead to Björk are already working on VR projects of their own. Next month’s launch of PlayStation VR marks the debut of the two most impressive products of this synergy to date: Enhance Games' blissed-out Rez Infinite, and Drool's gnarled, menacing Thumper.
For the uninitiated: Rez began its life in 2001 on the Sega Dreamcast console, and has since become a seminal title in the history of modern audiovisual experience. Essentially a shooter set inside a futuristic computer simulation, the player's avatar is propelled through a neon metaverse in an attempt to destroy and outmaneuver a stream of AI data clusters. Among other things, the game was remarkable for its blending of music and visual elements to create a psychedelic symphony of interactive sound and imagery, all in creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi's relentless pursuit of synesthesia – the phenomenon where the stimulation of one sense triggers a response from another (some people, who experience it involuntarily in daily life, describe 'seeing' sounds).
Rez included a "Traveling" mode for those uninterested in such standard game conceits as "points" and "levels," where you could simply fly through the environments and take in the sights and sounds without dying. Mizuguchi also included the sex toy-like peripheral – the Trance Vibrator – in the original retail version that would pulsate to the game’s propulsive techno soundtrack (provided by the likes of electronic musicians Ken Ishii, Coldcut and Oval). In its new VR-compatible Rez Infinite incarnation (which the creators have demoed using a custom-built haptic suit that extends the Trance Vibrator concept to the entire body), the game now immerses players in its audiovisual womb as never before. Enhance Games’ Mark MacDonald says the nature of playing Rez in VR benefits from the sensory deprivation. "Putting on the VR headset, closing off all of your peripheral vision, and wearing headphones – not to mention the fact that it’s all in 3D – this is the best way to experience Rez."