The Sound of Permadeath Speedruns

VVVVVV death

Most of the writing/thinking I’ve done here about the Let’s Play: Permadeath: Speedrun project has concerned the way you have to engage with the games themselves to die as quickly as possible. And, really, that’s the most interesting thing about them for me. But I thought I should at least very briefly profile the audio involved, since for each game I’ve been trying (and perhaps failing quite often) to include an audio track that compliments or related to the game/death, in keeping with the idea that a Let’s Play is traditionally “narrated”. As such:

VVVVVV has my own voice giving a fairly earnest appraisal of how much I like the game (a lot) before being cut-off by the death of Viridian, the avatar. Ha ha, comedy. But an appropriate start to something that I’d at least initially conceptualised as being a kind of humorous performance more than anything else.

SUPERHOT has a Super Mario Bros. soundtrack playing in the background. For one thing they share the word “super” in their titles, so that’s clever, and for the other I quite like the chipper nature of the Mario music in contrast to the generally gritty ideas behind SUPERHOT.

Super Hexagon has a “knock knock” joke that doesn’t get a punchline, for reasons I don’t entirely understand anymore. Why did I do that? Did I think that death in Super Hexagon was like “knocking” into a wall? Was I trying to make a joke about not even being able to tell a knock-knock joke? Was the “who’s there?” a poignant note just at the moment of death? No one is there… etc.?

Jostle Parent has a loop of the “oh mom and dad” line from Laurie Anderson’s amazing song O Superman. I like this because it has a straightforward connection but the melancholy of the lyric and the delivery feels like it adds something to the pathos that Jostle Parent was kind of meant to be all about.

Hotline Miami has every song on the (extremely good) Hotline Miami soundtrack gradually building on top of each other into a cacophony. It felt like a nice way to reach for the overloaded violence the game is so well known for, before being abruptly cut off of course.

Helix has me saying “if this game had better graphics, it could be quite successful”, which is a not-that-interesting reference to things people sometimes say about Michael Brough’s excellent games.

Desert Golfing has the start of an actual golf commentary clip, but of course the game is over so fast you don’t hear them say anything. I like the combination of the often ponderous nature of golf commentary with the the fast-paced world of permadeath speedrunning.

GIRP has nothing as far as I can recall, because it’s over so fast you don’t really have the chance to hear anything. I think it’s maybe just the sound of the game itself, because it’s so restful and pleasant to hear the sound of the waves and the seagulls – and perhaps it’s restful and pleasant to let yourself fall down into the sea and sleep forever?

Sausage!! Sausage!! Sausage!! has a very fast computer voice announcing the name of the game. Not my best work except that I wanted people to know who made the game (Poppy Games) because they do good work.

Pitfall! has the “the horror… the horror…” line from the end of Apocalypse Now because it fit the jungle theme and seemed amusingly overstated for a game that (like many others) really doesn’t take the struggle of life and death very seriously at all.

ADVENT has the start of a Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing commercial which I find pretty hilarious as a juxtaposition. It came up because obviously I was trying to type extremely fast during the speedrun in order to reach my death as quickly as possible. I like to think Mavis would be proud?

The Graveyard has a computer voice reading out John Donne’s famous poem “Death Be Not Proud” such that the old woman dies at the moment it says “Death thou shalt die”. The computer voice is also, perhaps too cutely, the “Bad News” voice that comes with Mac OS X. I believe it speaks in the tones of Chopin’s “Funeral March”. It’s all very on the nose.

Kaizo Mario has as downward moving shepard tone, which seems appropriate for a game designed to be lost and died in perhaps more than any other?

Braid has the classic reverse playing of Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, notably the passage that is meant to include all the “my sweet Satan” stuff. Because, you know, Braid is all about reversing time?

Super Punch-Out! has one of those very creepy number station voices reading out numbers in German. I like it as a kind of prefiguring of the knock-out count-up in boxing.

The Oregon Trail has the terrific yodelling from Raising Arizona, which feels like it strikes a perfect note of weird country-oriented optimism and derring-do, which is then contrasted with the characters in the game dying from resting too much.

All I’m saying is that I do think about that audio, at least a bit.

(If you want to watch all these videos, they are all here on this playlist.)

6 January 2016
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