There are only a few forms of entertainment that have survived since homo sapiens became homo sapiens. Over the centuries, both games and music have remained essential to the survival and health of big communities. From the fire pits that kept tribes alive on cold nights, to the campfires that roast our marshmallows today, we even enjoy these activities much in the same way our ancestors did.
The adorable music game Campfire helps us understand why. Through easy yet engaging play, it allows you to see exactly what about music and games makes both so important to social development. It brings the player into a clearing of trees, where, huddled around a crackling flame, two chilled out creatures sit poised with instruments in hand. Dressed in flip-flops, colorful sweaters, and an out-of-place gardening hat, they feel like a couple of kids you’d meet at an art school, during an impromptu drum circle. (Side note: what is it about adorable, non sequitur animals that helps us enjoy music in videogames so much more?)
The game itself captures the spontaneity and sense of community that’s so central to the concept of a drum circle. Up to two players can participate, either taking the role of the strummer on the guitar or the beater of a drum. On the guitar, you hold down the keyboard buttons that correspond to the designated chord, using the up and down arrows to pace your strumming. The drummer’s role is simpler; the tempo of your mouse clicks determining the beat. Regardless of their more rudimentary role, though, the drummer’s shirtless enthusiasm brings a lot of personality (and authenticity) to the whole scene.
Campfire’s atmosphere is also just as spot-on. Darkness surrounds the two musicians, the illumination of the flame and warmth of each chord making a home out of an otherwise daunting forest. Though I didn’t get to play with another person, I imagine the sense of place created by the game would be double-fold with a partner, adding a layer of camaraderie to the experience.
But even in solo mode, Campfire blends together the essential aspects of games and music, highlight exactly what’s kept them both relevant for so much of human history. Inviting experimentation through play, and the communal self-expression of music-making, it speaks to the strength of each’s form. You’ll find yourself nodding along with your green ant-ish guitar player, losing yourself to the hypnotic fun of jamming your heart out.
You can play Campfire on your browser, or download a desktop version for PC, Mac, and Linux for free. Be sure to follow creator Florian Decupper on his Twitter too.