SoundSelf Expands and Soothes Minds
Austin-created VR experience offers a virtual reality trip into consciousness
Two things bringing people much-needed respite as they shelter at home are technology (Zoom went from niche tech to late-night punchline in about a week) and meditation (anyone with a British accent saying "breathe" will do). Combining those two lifelines is a new "video game" that creates a mindful, relaxing, and maybe even psychedelic mind state.
SoundSelf is the brainchild of local video game experimentalist Robin Arnott. The soothing software isn't a response to the coronavirus stress: He and his small team at Andromeda Entertainment have reimagined and tweaked the project for eight years. "I think it's crazy synchronistic to have this game, which is a radically new approach to what a game can do, wrapping development just in time to really help people come back to stillness and inner peace in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic," Arnott explained via email.
But what is it exactly? The press release describes it somewhat elusively as a "technodelic." More concretely, it's a game that uses imagery and sound to help you achieve a deeper meditative state. Utilizing your computer's microphone, SoundSelf feeds a combination of the player's own voice, musical elements, and moving visual patterns back to them. The effect is uniquely powerful and might be just the kind of self-care you need to boost that inner peace that's so elusive right now. "Meditate on your breath for a few minutes before going in, and then treat the game as though it is something sacred!" Arnott recommends. "It will absolutely respond to the intention you bring into it."
If you really want to turn the experience up to 11, try it with a VR headset and let the sights and sounds surround you. The experience was effective enough to get the attention of the NeuroMeditation Institute, whose tests found that SoundSelf induced brain activity similar to those found in psychedelic states. If you prefer your meditation a little more serene than trippy, then just let your computer screen do the work.
Designed to calm, SoundSelf couldn't be a more extreme departure from Arnott's previous creation, Deep Sea, that involved donning a custom gas mask with the visor blacked out and retrofitted with headphones. Players were tasked with listening for (and hopefully pinpointing) a malevolent sea creature. The problem? Every breath taken in the mask was monitored and triggered a loud bubbling sound that obfuscated the would-be swimming attacker. The effect was one of sensory (and oxygen) deprivation that made removing the mask feel like a metaphorical and literal breath of fresh air.
SoundSelf also looks to affect people's perception, but this time by engaging the senses instead of depriving them. It hopes to be that breath of fresh air its predecessor withheld. Opening up space, both within the mind and in virtual reality, during these claustrophobic times might be one of the new endeavors you picked up during the pandemic that you continue to explore when we come out the other side of this. Making sourdough probably won't.
SoundSelf: A Technodelic comes out April 22 for Macs, PCs, and VR. You can find it and add it to your wishlist on Steam.