Dabe Alan

Soundself may be the world’s first chanting, psychedelic meditation exploration… simulator

Soundself may be the world’s first chanting, psychedelic meditation exploration… simulator

Robin Arnott, the creator of Deep Sea and the music in Antichamber, put headphones over my ears at PAX East, and I turned to face a screen. “Just chant,” he told me. I brought the microphone close to my mouth, and chanted. It took a moment, but the sound of my own voice filtered through the background music of the game, and suddenly I was surrounded by the tone I was making, and the images on the screen began to interact with my chants.

It was an immediately calming, deeply strange feeling. Arnott is looking for money to complete the program.

You can play a very early version of the program now, but the extra money will be spent making the program even more reactive. If you change the rhythm of your chants, the number of voices, or any number of parameters the program should be able to react to you to create visuals that match what your voice is doing.

“It's designed to be a meditation experience, you just flow into it,” Arnott told me after I was done with my session. I know many of you are already rolling your eyes, or you'll describe this as little more than one of those visualizers that used to come with WinAmp, but something happens when the game looks into your voice, and the way it creates an environmet with your voice, other sounds, and the animations shown on the screen. It's like being part of a feedback loop where you can change certain aspects of the experience with your chanting, and I found myself very calm after only a few minutes.

“This is an experimental game, we're trying something new, and something that I really need to experiment on is intention,” Arnott said. He doesn't want players to be able to be have direct control over the visuals, the aim is more of a collaboration between your voice and the program. But that's going to take some play-testing and work to find the correct balance.

I stuck around for a bit to watch people play, and the game was also on display in the same MOMA exhibition as the odd floating Move controller experience I had described before. It was fascinating to watch players in a museum stretch out on the floor, put on headphones, and chant softly to each other while watching the screen. I find the question of what is, or isn't, a game to be deeply boring, but Soundself is an experience I have no problem supporting.