Optic Echo (2012)

Make an invisible world visible by making noise. In a "blind" game without sound, use your voice to find your way. Chase a man through a maze and inscribe your voice on his body. This is an echolocation-based video game with a voice-activated silent soundscape. The intention is to make visuals that are rendered in the way that audio is experienced.

"[L]ike the fire, sound is always coming into and going out of existence, evading the continuous presence that metaphysics requires; like the fire also, sound is heard and felt simultaneously, dissolving subject and object, interior and exterior. Like the river, sound cannot be called "the same" since it changes at every point in its movement through a space; yet like "Soul," it does not strictly belong to the object. Nor can sound's source and ending be defined, for it originates as already multiple, a "mix," which makes it impossible to speak of "a" sound without endangering the structure of Western thought itself." - Frances Dyson, Sounding New Media

Full Description

Optic Echo involves voice-activated visual echolocation in an evasive three-dimensional sonic landscape. It is a game created for mobile devices with the intention of representing visuals as sound is heard.  Walls in the 3D environment are represented not as solid points in space but as particles flying toward the player “from hidden places.”  Visualization of the player’s environment and non-player characters is migratory, ephemeral, like sound.  Gameplay references echolocation:  the player makes a constant noise (for example, with his or her voice) into the microphone and the game uses the volume of this sound to visually render the walls of the 3D environment, as if the particles were noise echoing off of the walls.   The location of solid objects, like the origin of sound, must be inferred from the “optic echo’s” movement.  This was an attempt to mimic audio through another sense, a step toward simulating audio through gameplay. Sonic art theorist Seth Kim-Cohen argues for a conceptual sound art that is not based on what is heard, “but in the elsewhere/elsewhen engagement with ideas, conventions and preoccupations.”  Just as the visual arts have explored the verbal and written communication of ideas over the retinal, he believes that sonic arts can move beyond the sensory.  I believe that there ways that games can represent sound without reproducing it.

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