Retro-Modern: Linkin Park goes 8-Bit

Technology comes and goes so fast. Still have any zip discs? I think that the short relationship we have with each generation of technology results in nostalgia for things that were more permanent that we had a relationship with. That had meaning for us. In film we have Bladerunner, Brazil, Sin City or 300 that stylistically combine modern and nostalgic retro. In music we have electronica groups like DePhazz and Gotan Project who blend modern beats and retro jazz (both have new albums just out).

One specific modern/retro offshoot that I particularly enjoy is resurgence of old 8-bit technology as a modern/retro style. Recent work that has explored this terrain are Brad Smith’s faithful recreation of Dark Side of the Moon and Patrick Jean’s fantastic short PIXELS.

Joining in this is rock band Linkin Park has partnered with gaming company Artificial Life to release 8-Bit Rebellion, an iPhone and iPad video game where you explore a city with neighborhoods designed by bandmembers and fight against the evil Pixxelkorp alongside the band.

While the gaming is a cool blend of 8-bit retro and up-to-date features like customized avatars and backgrounds, what we find interesting is the choice of mobile devices for their primary platform. The game has the prerequisit social connections and other features built in but this game is different. It’s about music.

More than a game, it’s about listening to your favorite band, interacting and unlocking music you can’t get anywhere else. It’s the new album or cd experience. A record, cd or mp3 player only allows you to listen to music, iTunes (and other platforms) brought back lyrics and some cover art but not to any satisfying degree. The iPad, with its larger screen, faster processor and long battery life could become the first new platform to allow for deep engagement with your music. Either you are old enough to remember or had your parents or older friends go on and on about listening to vinyl albums while holding the cover and reading the liner notes. It’s more than just nostalgia, it allowed you to connect with the band on other levels. In a way it was early cross-media storytelling. The music told one story, the liner notes gave you background and other details while the over all design became part of what you associated the band with. Remember cover art from Chicago, Pink Floyd or Yes?

For a new generation, for whom interaction only the starting point, iPad apps like 8-Bit Rebellion could not only be the new “album” experience but a revolution for music labels long searching for a way to engage fans beyond individual mp3s.

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