Creating, collaborating and communicating across geographical and cultural borders has rarely seemed more crucial than at the present time, and music is surely one of the most far-reaching and universal bridge-builders that we can share.
Transcending language barriers and differing belief systems, with the potential to bring joy to those in even the darkest moments, it seems that music has an essential role to play – however small the reach or magnitude may be.
Ashton Park School
For the last few months, the students at Ashton Park School have been working in collaboration with the Israeli game designer Igal Bronshtein who is developing accessible versions of both online and standalone games that can be customized to suit the gamer’s needs.
The beta version of the resulting game, QTetris, was released on 13th July, with sound effects and music created by the students in their sessions at Ashton Park.
Sounds for Games
Igal contacted me after seeing what the students at CEDA had done with rapper Billy Saga, voicing an interest in collaborating on some work he was creating for one of his students in Israel.
The first game we worked on consisted of a sound recognition challenge, where the player would hear a soundbite of a musical instrument and decide whether the image on screen matched the sound.
Igal needed a set of sounds to use, so our group began to record a small library of recordings for him to include.
They recorded live instruments such as piano, guitar and glockenspiel, as well as Soundbeam and several apps such as ThumbJam to provide sound sources.
The group members took on different responsibilities during the production process: positioning microphones, conducting and cueing, recording using GarageBand and selecting which sounds were to be used.
When Igal told us he was developing a game of Tetris with the Greek developer, Aristeidis Tomaras, the group were very excited as the game is an old favourite that several were familiar with.
Their brief was to create a range of sound assets such as background music, line completion effects and ‘game over’ sounds, using Soft Synths and iPad apps to design and record the sounds.
We kept in contact via Skype and email, exchanging a thread of feedback to guide the work we carried out.
The resulting game is a beautifully simple take on a classic game; completely customizable in terms of difficulty level, GUI size and the range of shapes included as blocks. Players can opt for any combination of shapes; from squares alone to the whole range.
Igal also included a ‘static’ version where blocks only descend when triggered. The static version worked well with two of his participants who were daunted by continuous falling motion of the blocks.
The overall feedback from students was excellent. Katie Joliffe said ‘I enjoyed the game and couldn’t stop playing’.
Callum Carpenter thought ‘it was very addictive’, and Gabriel Dodds described it as ‘fascinating’.
In order to cement and acknowledge the skills they had gained during their work with Drake Music, students studied for a number of AQA awards including musical composition, maintaining a blog and using Garageband to create music.
Students also benefited from the presence of Jordan Andow in our sessions, a graduate in gaming design who offered his expertise in the area.
Amy Jenkin, the group’s form tutor commented that ‘from my observations, every Drake Music session the students have had has encouraged their confidence and self esteem to flourish which has been noticeable throughout the last 18 months.’