Music Monday: SoundSelf

by on April 8th, 2013 at 12:34 pm


Sound Self is a game of internal exploration. Your hands and voice guide you through a musical, though I hesitate to use the term, journey. Watching the waveforms crash and unfold, bend and twist, melt into one another and burn into live with surprising passion has been a meditative or transcendent experience for some. Others have found peace with themselves or forgiveness for others. Some just thought it was like being high. Everyone finds something in Sound Self if they’re willing to look for it, if they can allow their brain to shut down and simply react and process.

And in my journey through Sound Self, I discovered terror. Pure, uncompromising, terror.

Robert Arnott, creator of Sound Self has said that “the experience will change based on what people bring to Sound Self.” And never have I agreed with a developer more than that statement right there. I sat down to play Sound Self after a stressful, but rewarding, week of hard work. My day job was being a bit annoying, but the launch of this site was going well and the podcast ended up being a blast. But this was the first week in a long while where the terror of failure, of aimlessness, purposelessness, and doubt didn’t gnaw at my every action. I felt okay with spending an evening just reading comic books and playing games because I’d worked so hard for the rest of the week.

Or so I told myself.


Apparently my subconscious didn’t agree with me. Something felt off as soon as I started up Sound Self, a sort of nervous anticipation ran up my spine. A white screen with a black circle. Harmless. I pressed forward. The white screen filled with darkness, then flowing colored lines in circles and rays and a high pitched whine filled my ears followed by the a staccato beat of what sounded like the drums from hell. My voice suddenly became raspy as I talked to the game and my fingers twitched on the keyboard. Each new variation on the music, each step further I took into that realm of pulsing lines and strange beats, exposed another layer of me to myself.

Failure, weakling, fat, lazy, hedonist, idiot, liar, on and on the assaults on my mind came. It is terror to be confronted with all of your flaws at once, it is terror to look away from them.

Gasping, I mash the escape key five times. The game closes. I stare at my monitor, blind to whatever is on it, my mind reeling from all that a little music has shown to me. This is what being interrogated by god must feel like. Unable to look away while knowing all too well what’s coming next.

So, of course, I ask my girlfriend to play it. And she does.

It starts the same, white screen with small black hole. Then she speaks to the game, starts messing with the keys, starts exploring the world that the music reveals about her. I give her the same amount of time with the game I gave myself. Five minutes. For five minutes I watched her play that game and stared at those pulsing lines and felt the terror of myself exposed yet again, if much less intensely. How hard would this be for her? Was I a monster for asking her to do this?

Five minutes.

“So? What did you think?” My voice is expectant and scared all at once. She shrugs.

“It was relaxing.”

“Oh. That’s it?”

“Yeah?” She’s confused. Clearly I was expecting something different from her. “Why? What did you experience?”

“It… scared me.” She smiles at me. A silly, unexpected, welcoming smile.

“Well, yeah, you’ve spent all week worrying about losing your job and running a website. Makes sense you’re on edge.” She kisses me. “Try it next week.”

I think I will.

Sound Self can be found here.