ERVAX for 2

ERVAX For 2 is an interactive art piece by composer Anders Monrad and designer Simon Nielsen. We call it both a game and a compositional tool, because even though it looks and plays a bit like an arcade game, part of the point is that the players are creating music. Sort of a Guitar Hero in reverse, where the music does not dictate the gameplay, but is instead generated by playing the game.

The two of us would later collaborate on other things - see esophon and Strebewerk.

Presented at CPHGC's 2011 Arcade Boat, 2011 Raflost Icelandic Festival of Electronic Art, PULSAR festival 2011, Re-New 2012, Amaze Berlin 2013

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ERVAX for 2 was originally developed with a classical music audience in mind. Members of the audience is invited to play and thus "compose" their own music. The Idea is to integrate a stereotypical contemporary music idiom (serial music/interactive sound-installation) and a stereotypical videogame-idiom (8-bit, retro-arcade game-aesthetics). A quirky, unusual combination, which both pays tribute and makes for a bit of gentle satire of both forms.

ERVAX for 2 has been presented at various occasions, for classical music audiences as well as for more conventional game audiences. It had a custom faux-arcade cabinet. Gameplay-wise, ERVAX for 2 is a two-player arcade racing / shoot-em-up. The development of the gameplay was not guided solely by conventional game design wisdom, but partly by consideration for the musical framework as well. This means that in some aspects, it’s a bit of an unfair game and that some details (like, for instance, a clear win condition and even the words "win" and "lose") have been discarded.

Players of the game will have to select from a roster of characters, each with their own distinct sound and background sound ambience, including: Arnold Schoenberg (the sombre serialist), Stokastiko (the aleatoric entity), XV-32768 (the interstellar robot), Hank Marvin (master of the solid body), and Surfer Dude.

A central feature of ERVAX for 2 is the possibility of hearing the resulting composition after finishing the game - thus putting an emphasis on the composition being created during the game.