Games Inspired By Music: A game development competition with Safari Books Online


We love chiptunes, the quirky celebration of 8-bit-style music that's become a a vibrant genre of its own with a thriving scene supporting it. The compositions evoke a time when electronic musicians had to make the most of the limited resources offered by primitive computing technology. Keeping that fire alive, the latest compositions are like the soundtracks to vintage videogames that never existed.

As teased last week, we're joining with Safari Books Online, the massive online library of technical know-how, to honor the mighty chip in the form of a Game Dev Challenge. Your task is to make real the imaginary games embodied by chiptunes. For inspiration or technical insight, Safari Books Online is offering Boing Boing readers 30 days free access to five videogame-related books from the library.

The game can be in the format and language of your choice, but we'll be particularly impressed by those whose style and economy matches the music. Compatibility with mobile browsers is a big plus, too! Flash, javascript/HTML5, Silverlight and Java will allow us to embed your game in our site, but native iPhone and Android apps are good options as well.

Of course, if you love Python or Unity or Locomotive BASIC, don't let us stop you.

You have until July 5 to complete your game. If that feels like a tight deadline, remember that games don't have to be epics. A perfectly-formed 5-minute vignette is better than a poor RPG.

To submit your entry, email it to us or host it somewhere and email the URL. You're welcome to post links to works in progress or completed games in the comments, too!

We'll select the finalists and showcase them here on Boing Boing starting July 8. Then we'll hold a public vote and announce the winners on July 15 16. Prizes? Of course there are prizes.

The grand prize is a year of access to Safari Books Online, a $515 value. Safari Books Online provides searchable, on-demand access to more than 10,000 technology, digital media and business books, videos and pre-published manuscripts from more than 40 publishers.


The winner will also receive a treasure chest of goodies from our pals at Gama-Go, ranging from a limited-edition art print to a Gama-Goon statue to a set of handy Sing-A-Long Tongs!

Two runners up will score three month subscriptions to Safari Books Online, valued at $128 each, and a fun pack of Gama-Go goods like a Yeti Qee Keychain, Pocket Journal, Hip-Hopsicles, or the Gama-Go art book. Additional feats of 8-Bit excellence may be rewarded with other Gama-Go bits or items retrieved in Rob's gadget dozen.

Read the full rules for the fine print, including such notices that your submission should be appropriate for gamers of all ages. Only one entry per person is eligible for a prize. Prize winners must live in the U.S. and be at least 18 years old. (Sorry about that!) You keep the copyright in your entry but allow us to use it.

Here are a few parallel universes to pull ideas from:


Tettix, AKA Judson Cowan, lives in Atlanta and is responsible for energetic compositions such as Earth's Assault on the Central AI. If a tune ever came up and demanded a game to go with it, it's that one! He recommends tracks from his free-to-download albums Technology Crisis, Technology Crisis II, and T.K.O.E.P.

Listen: Earth's Assault on the Enemy AI

Listen: Flying Butt Pliers


If you haven't heard Neutralite, a free-to-download introduction to Disasterpeace's music, download it right now. The 'narrative of a young hero chosen by elders of Neutral Town to protect their village from the unfolding conflict between the Plaid and Argyle nations,' it serves as proof positive that music alone can conjure complete, if pixelated, fantasy worlds. Atebite and the Warring Nations is your next step.

Adds Disasterpeace, AKA Rich Vreeland: I have whole albums that are basically non-existent game worlds, so it shouldn't be too hard!" Follow him on twitter. Other projects he's worked on include Rescue: The Beagles and A Kind of Bloop.

He suggests Violet Violet Garden, Gray Daycare Riot and Funky Fruitstand as good tracks to check out — all come with the Neutralite album. For inspiration, don't miss Samuel Lopez's video to its title track, embedded above!

Listen: Gobber Grove (A collaboration with Spamtronlink)

Listen: Gray Daycare Riot

Garry Lee

As Sycamore Drive, scotsman Garry Lee posts compositions to 8bit Collective, a popular online haunt for chiptune composers. He offers Starlight for platformers and Happiness in Winter for RPGs!

Listen: Starlight

Listen: Happiness In Winter

Prizmatic Spray

Prizmatic Spray works for game audio design company Audio Aggregate and has just released a chiptune album called Sky Burial. He suggests Ingest the Geode and Nocturnazoide as tracks that could inspire games.

Listen: Ingest the Geode

Listen: Nocturnazoid


If you'll permit yourself a heavy nod to modern dance sounds mixed into your chip, you won't go wrong with 4mat's blend of Konami-style shoot-em-up melodies and 21st-century breakbeats.

Listen: Breathe

Listen: Black Lipstick


Decktonic, AKA Christian Montoya, makes electronic, dance and chip. His 'weapon of choice' is the Korg DS10, a Nintendo DS cart that emulates a classic analog synth. Sky World and Square Signals are great chip.

Listen: Square Signals

Daniel Merrill

Merrill's been composing rock, electronic, and
orchestral music for a few years, but spent the last few months on "a chiptune kick," creating a three-track album named "Caverns of Gossimar." It's
inspired by the heroic themes, battles, and dungeons of the Legend of
Zelda and other RPGs — but you're free to use your imagination.

Listen: Medley

Beta to the Max

Robert Allaire, a composer who recently graduated from CalArts with an MFA in music composition, says he mostly works on indie film and art music. But his true love is 'chiptune dance,' which features in a music-based iPhone game he developed last year.

Last year I teamed up with a classmate and friend, Steve Rusch, to form a chiptune duo that we lovingly call Beta to the Max. One thing we do differently than many other chiptune artists is use modern dance sounds and try to adhere to strict production values. That puts us more in the camp of artists like 4mat and Trash80. We make heavy use of a beautiful, modded NES with Wayfar's MidiNES for our sound. We're based in Los Angeles, and recently released an EP called UPC_EP (so named because I couldn't figure out where to put the bar code on the CD, and so made it the prominent feature on the cover).

Allaire recomments FTW, Intergalactic Elevator and Dial 3 to prospective game developers. Beta To The Max's music is released with a creative commons license. Here's Dial 3, inspired by Philip K. Dick's mood-dialing machine, which blends traditional chip with housey beats.

Listen: Dial 3


Golab is the solo effort of Joel roberts, co-founder of Ohio New-Wave outfit Stylex. Beach-boys style harmonies, vintage synths, Casio keyboards and acoustic instruments make for "songs as unique and catchy as they are haunting." There is a Myspace page where you can hear more.

He suggests one of these three Gameboy-made tracks fom his 2006 record, "Simply Banquet."

Listen: Showgirls

Listen: Fright Night

Listen: Thought Crimes

Any questions?

Q: Can I base my game on a different chiptune?

A: Yes! If the chiptune is not already explicitly licensed to allow appropriate re-use, you must secure the written permission of the composer if you wish to embed it in your game.

Q: I'm a chiptune composer, can I put my tune into the pool?

A: Yes! Email it in. Don't forget to tell us a little about yourself and how you went about composing the tune.

Q; I want to participate, but I can't program!

A: Take advantage of the free 30 days of access to these books from Safari Books Online. Check out Game Maker, Adventure Game Studio and Ambrosine's list of authoring software for non-programmers.

Update: Missing your comment? We forked a new thread for discussion of the comment rules and might have moved it there.