Listen to players "perform" a videogame sonata through their button presses

Music and play are connected by more than just videogame scores. More than any other medium, music and videogames are the two forms of entertainment we connect most to experiences. No one can ever forget the first song they lost their minds to at a concert, just like no player will ever forget the first game that made them lose sleep for days on end.

The Re:Play series by M Bethancourt (AKA Mouse & the Billionaire) is an audio-visual expression of the sensorial relationship between games and music. By recording button presses from a playthrough and transcribing that data into music, the series renders gameplay a sonata, each crescendo and decrescendo spotlighting both the player and game designer as composer.

“Video game interaction and musical practice share the common verb ‘play,’” reads the project’s description. “But what does it mean to play a video game as opposed to a musical piece? How does the state of gameplay change when play is taken to mean ‘perform’ rather than ‘engage with’? What can we learn about the engagement level of a gamer by observing the speed of his button presses and the motion of his controller?”

The first entry into the series, MarioParty, combines eight different playthroughs of the original Super Mario Bros. into a symphony of play. Every right press on the D-Pad translates into a sustained note, while all other D-Pad presses (including none) decreases the volume, and the A and B buttons cause notes and filter sweeps. Each bar in the video represents a different player, and while it’s hard to tell who’s doing well and who’s dying, Bethancourt says he specifically chose a variety of different players to get the best results. 

“what does it mean to play a video game as opposed to a musical piece?” 

But the beauty of the project is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re “casual” or “hardcore,” or winning or losing during your playthrough. Everyone is just one part of the unfolding sonata. The audio-visual representation, along with the swells and lulls of the synth notes, distills each person’s play down to a minimalist experience of sight and sound. Using music as an equalizer, the series highlights just how simultaneously universal and unique play can be for each individual—and how beautiful those differences can appear when played alongside each other.

You can follow the creator for more updates on the Re:Play project via Twitter.