French electronic act M83 has openly embraced the sound of the '80s, so it was only a matter of time before they showed the same affection to that era's signature gaming style. Welcome to Meet Me At Go.
The project, Meet Me at Go, is a collaboration between M83, Microsoft, and creative agency Listen that consists of an 8-bit game style remix of the single "Go," and an accompanying browser-based driving game. M83 is one of the latest artists to sign onto Microsoft’s Music X Technology program, which gives musicians access to the company’s tech. including Hololens and Kinect. Other program participants include Childish Gambino, Grimes, and Big Grams.
According to game developers J.K, Mason Palos, and Connor Bell, "The game consists of a couple of different scenes inspired by retro, '80s cyberpunk. The idea we had was that you're chasing another car, you're having like a street race to find your lover." M83 (aka Anthony Gonzalez) gave permission to remix the song, which will also appear on an upcoming EP. Microsoft then turned to outside developers to create the accompanying game.
Steve Milton, Listen’s co-founder, says the game took several months to develop. As part of the project, Microsoft and Listen remixed M83’s song into a late 1980s/early 1990s 8-bit style soundtrack. A game was then developed and time-synced to the song; the 8-bit remix also appears on an upcoming EP. As the song’s tempo slows, the car’s speed slows; as the song speeds up, the game starts running more quickly.
The game itself is a simple enough affair: Players race through a cityscape and collect objects, with the game backgrounds synced to the song. According to Microsoft’s Amy Sorokas, "We were thinking a little about how music videos evolve, and how to make them more interactive for games."
Microsoft refers to the combined song and game as an "interactive music video experience," and it also has a handy second purpose: Showing off the capabilities of Microsoft products. The game itself is optimized for playing on a Microsoft Surface touchscreen (though you can play with a mouse just fine); play it on a Microsoft Edge browser, and you’re treated to bonus easter eggs.
M83 and Microsoft’s song/game duo is also one of the latest entries in an enduring tradition of browser-based games to promote musicians. This embrace of "advergaming," as it’s known, includes efforts by, among others, Skrillex (Skrillex Quest), De La Soul (Pain), and even metal band Testament (Brotherhood of the Snake). Games, even though they can take considerable time to create, are often very effective marketing tools for reaching new audiences.
However, developing a game around one song does have its challenges. If a game is complicated—which, by browser standards, M83’s is—it requires a bit more development work than your typical retro-style browser game. As Milton puts it, "One of the interesting things that we can do is to be inspired by different elements of song. The lyrics inspire the narrative of the game, but (in the song) the verse and chorus have different energy levels. As you’re driving during the verse part, it’s a slower pace. As you go into the chorus, there’s more energy, and you experience it at a more energized pace."
The game includes a couple of nifty tricks as well: If you lose, the song slowly breaks down like your car; the game also puts considerable work into making sure backgrounds and visual effects are synced with the remix. M83’s Meet Me At Go game was released in February 2017 and can be accessed here.