Music, Video Games & Love Intertwined at Soundplay Game Jam

The crowd around the interactive game/music experience (with beer) at Pitchfork’s Soundplay Game Jame at the New Museum on Wednesday night.

The New Museum, with its clean, towering ambiance and penchant for the ultra-modern, was the ideal location Wednesday night for Soundplay Game Jam, a tech-heavy party for video gamers and audiophiles who drank, gamed, and danced the night away for free at the Lower East Side institution.

Presented by Pitchfork, the online indie music Mecca, and Kill Screen, an online publisher covering video games, arts and culture, a mostly RSVP-only crowd of beautiful twenty-somethings lined up first for free cans of Brooklyn Brewery IPA and a turn to play video games on a row of new Lenovo laptops from Intel, another event sponsor. “I feel like I deserved to be here,” an NYU philosophy undergrad told me. “It has an exclusive feel but it’s open to the public.”

At each station, attendees sat down on cork tree stumps, put on headphones, and played video games named after and inspired by the song humming in their ears. I played “Love is Greed” (accompanied by Passion Pit’s whiny eponymous track), which featured two bunnies juggling items like bowling pins and flower bouquets; players time the items in the air as they circulate and press the space bar to keep them aloft as they re-cross the bunnies’ path.

Ramsey Nasser (left) and Kurt Bieg, game engineers

“Love is Greed” is simple and the graphics are of an early Nintendo era, yet the context of the game itself became extraordinary once Ramsey Nasser and Kurt Bieg, the game’s designers, who stood behind me as I played, explained that they toiled over the game’s narrative design and time constraints. Bieg said the song title inspired the idea that when in love, people tend to collect more than they need and literally juggle, hence the gameplay. “And,” Nasser added, “we wrote the first line of code at 4:30 A.M.—this morning.”

Chromatics

After the cocktail and gaming hour, the crowd was lead to the lower-level theater for a performance by the Chromatics, a Portland-based band that features a balance of synth-heavy rhythms and the gazing tenor vocals of lead singer Ruth Radelet. As the audience watched on and listened, it became quickly apparent that the buzz of the evening was centered on this performance; some swayed, some stood with crossed-arms, and some boogied to the foursome dressed in all black. “This is a song about love,” professed Radelet in a shy croon to the crowd of over a hundred eager hearts.

Following video games, booze and an intimate concert, naturally, was a nightcap in the museum’s Sky Room DJ-ed by Brooklyn-based electronic music magician Oneohtrix Point Never, aka Daniel Lopatin. Lopatin, who is from Wayland, Massachusetts, wore a Celtics cap and beard as he mixed and mashed tracks from a Macbook and iPad. “I prefer to play other people’s music way more than mine,” he told me, “the grass is always greener.”

Oneohtrix Point Never, aka Daniel Lopatin, DJs from the top floor of the New Museum.

The crowd begins to gather for Oneohtrix Point Never at the top floor of the New Museum

A full moon beams on a clear September night on the balcony of the New Museum.

Behind him, lazy waves of low-res graphics floated in sync with a somewhat empty room—at that point most had ventured to the balcony to smoke cigarettes, chat, and take in the cool New York night.