Gamers and ravers: The amazing similarities between the two worlds
Late last night the Danish game Inside by Playdead won two awards at The Game Awards in Los Angeles. Best Art Direction and Best Independent Game.
If you haven’t played Inside yet, this is the time to support the world class talent of our Danish game developers. You can google translate my review here: New Danish game is a nightmarish masterpiece and you can dive straight into the darkside nightmare yourself right here: playdead.com.
So this is a perfect time for me to reveal the astonishing connections between the world of games and the world of the ravers.
Anyone who knows what a truly darkside jungle tune feels like, will appreciate the artwork of Inside: sombre, sinister and shadowy.
But the connection between jungle and games goes a lot deeper than aesthetics:
I have been writing about computer games since 2001 but I have been deeply involved in the electronic music scene for even longer, since 1993 – and I have found that the similarities between the two worlds are astonishing. To a hilarious degree.
So let me share them with you:
The 12 amazing similarities between the electronic music scene and the gaming world
BOTH CULTURES EMERGED IN THE 80S
Even though the first computer game was made in 1952, things didn’t really get going until the 80s which is when the first techno tracks were made, too. Since then electronic music has exploded into a myriad of sub genres which are so different that you can hate one and love another. It’s totally the same thing with games.
Here’s a map of trance genres. Some of them are horrible and brain-numbing, like the worst match 3-game you can imagine. Some tracks are exquisite masterpieces that transport you to other worlds, like Inside.
BOTH CULTURES ARE OBSESSED WITH TECHNOLOGY
Both cultures explore the limits of the current available technology. The computers get bigger, the graphics gets better, the soundscapes evolve and evolve. There are wires, buttons, speakers, keyboards, equipment, blinking lights, studios, experiments, new software, new limits. Things that were impossible one year are normal the next.
Sometimes the explorations of the technology become physical towers of playfulness: How much can we boost the bass, for instance? Can we kill someone on the dancefloor with these walls of sound? Let’s try.
BOTH CULTURES ARE MISUNDERSTOOD BY THE MASS MEDIA
Okay, so electronic music doesn’t get blamed for school shootings. But the questions are similar. Is this culture or pure hedonism? What kind of damage does this do to all the young people?
And on and on and on it goes.
BOTH CULTURES LIKE TO STACK COLOURED BOXES ON TOP OF EACHOTHER
This is Tetris:
And this is the Tanzwiese dance floor at Fusion, one of the best underground electronic music festival in the known universe:
Fusion, I love you!
BOTH CULTURES HAVE AN INTERESTING GENDER BALANCE
Some people think this is a big problem. Some don’t. Either way, this is the dj mag list of the the most popular djs of 2013. There are a 100 names there and perhaps three women. It paints a picture.
No matter what you think of the gender balance, this list is completely ridiculous, of course. Hardwell as number 1, Avicii as 3, hahahahahaha, and David Gueatta as 5, LOL! Oh, don’t get me started. I could dedicate a complete blog post on a angry rant describing the huuuuge divide between what’s popular and what’s quality. This is a list of popular dj’s.
BOTH CULTURES WORSHIP FLOW
Flow – that magical sought after state, where you are completely absorbed, in tune with the universe, and your abilities match the escalating challenges exactly.
This is what flow looks like in a game:
And this is what flow feels like at a rave:
NOTHING beats the feeling of flow at a rave! – when the skill of the dj, the selection of the music and your body reaches a state of total communication. The really awesome thing about flow at raves is that it can last for hours if the dj is really good. I haven’t tried that in a game yet. (I took this picture at the magical S.U.N. festival in Hungary.)
BOTH CULTURES HAVE A STRICT DIVIDE BETWEEN THE CASUAL AND THE HARDCORE
I’m definitely a raver. There’s nothing casual about my interest in music – I’m all in. I’m also a gamer compared to the average person. I know that a lot of people in the gaming world don’t like the world gamer (“we all play games now”, etc.) – but I like the word. I would definitely call myself one. The funny thing is I don’t mind casual gamers at all. But I am very suspicious of people who are only casually into music.
BOTH CULTURES HAVE A PROBLEM WITH GETTING POPULAR
When I started listening to jungle techno in 93-94, I wanted the entire world to listen to my favourite music! But this is what it looks like when the entire world decides to show up at your party:
It’s a picture from the Berlin Love Parade and as you can see it’s a horrible place. This is the Farmville of raving.
BOTH CULTURES HAVE MAGICAL PLACES THAT ARE DIFFICULT TO REACH AND REQUIRE CERTAIN SKILLS TO GET TO
You just saw the picture of the Berlin Love Parade (after it got (too) popular). To avoid that kind of thing we need the secret parties. The secret festivals. The underground clubs. Far far far away from facebook and cameras and n00bs and people who are only casually into music.
This building is Berghain, one of the most famous techno clubs in the world.
Some would say that Berghain has already gotten way too popular and can no longer be considered the underground temple it once was, but anyways: It still requires a lot of skill and patience to get in. And that’s not mainstream skills like money or boobs or connections, that’s underground-y hard-to-figure-out-and-acquire-skills. People line up for hours only to get rejected at the door by a bouncer with facial tattoos. Meet Sven, the infamous head doorman/picker at Berghain (Gamers: think of him as a boss battle):
But once you’re inside – it’s totally awesome! (I can’t show you pictures because cameras are not allowed).
And that brutal gateway thing is EXACTLY what happens in super hardcore games like Eve Online. It takes years to get into it – but THEN it’s fun.
And once you have put in aaaaaall that effort, you know you are surrounded by equals.
BOTH CULTURES LIKE TO STAY AWAKE FOR A LONG TIME
The New Year’s Eve party at Berghain lasts for three days in a row and of course it gets really messy in there. And fun. In the gaming world these things are called game jams.
BOTH CULTURES HAVE AN OBSESSION WITH MAGIC POTIONS
You know how awesome it is when you play Diablo and you have a ton of health potions and you can just stay alive forever.
The raving world likes magical health potions as well, providing the ravers with amazing superpowers and soul healing and extra energy, taking them to magical places where nothing bad ever happens.
BOTH CULTURES ARE ENJOYING A RETRO MOMENT – AT THE MOMENT
When I started listening to jungle techno in 94, dj’ing meant playing vinyls. Today many dj’s use all kinds of software and electronic equipment instead, but to me, vinyls on the decks is the real way to dj.
Fortunately for vinyl aficionados like me, parties and raves where alle the dj’s play strictly vinyl are becoming very popular again, and JUngLEkalenderen obviously LOVES the massive oldskool jungle revival going on in London (you can revisit Chriszka the Time-Traveller and Mariiii the Jungle Monster’s retro adventures in oldskool jungle London here: Being a Junglist: Going to London.)
In the gaming world, the retro wave is almost too big to dive into here. It doesn’t even feel like a retro wave anymore, more like a permanent condition. Many reasons for this, too, but I’m outta here before this blog post becomes endlessly long. Here’s just one example: The massively retro, massively awesome game You Must Build a Boat from 2015:
Those were 12 of the similarities. There are many more.
The above is a blog-i-fied version of a talk I did at Pumpehuset in front of a lovely crowd of game developers at the anniversary session of the magnificent SpilBar. Get in touch if you want to hear more. I would love to do the talk again. Both worlds can learn from each other.
I also love it (obviously) when the two worlds mix. Here is a pic I took on the main floor at the Fusion Festival. You might have to look closely to see it above the heads of the ravers: Pac-Man hunting 5 ghosts across Turmbühne.
Did you miss a day of JUngLE? Scroll through the entire calendar (including season 1 and 2) here: JUngLEkalenderen
Did you miss yesterday’s episode? Go here: Jungle Explained: It’s not earthbound, it’s more outer space