How The Music Of 'The Adventure Zone' Ropes You In

How The Music Of 'The Adventure Zone' Ropes You In

From video games to podcasts, chiptunes never seem to die.
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With the boom of video game creation in the 1980s came a surge of new music made entirely with old computer and gaming consoles known as "chiptunes." Those chirpy, electronic classics have developed from early arcade games like Space Invaders and Gameboy's Pokémon battle themes to modern synthpop and electronic music. As video games have advanced in technology and storytelling capabilities, though, this genre has become a rarity as the industry begins to lean on orchestral, cinematic soundtracks. Even so, the chiptune and electronic genres are still associated with video games, a fact that has led to some interesting developments in music composition for not only games, but everything from movies to, perhaps most effectively, podcasts.

Though certain music genres obviously lend themselves to certain stories, a few select storytellers have discovered the surprisingly effective technique of combining classic video game music with acoustic instruments. The strong ties chiptunes and electronic music have with video games encourage listeners to understand those sounds as fantastical, animated, and vibrant, while acoustic instruments, whether or not they are actually played in the song or are mimicked by the computer, sound grounded in reality. Combining these contrasting styles can result in sound that can be comforting, unsettling, and everything in between.

Though this use of conflicting styles has been around for years, it was brought further into the limelight with video games like Undertale. The popular 2015 RPG was praised for its soundtrack, which combined chiptune with a medley of genres to create a game fueled by nostalgia. Its chiptunes mimic standard video game battle themes, jazz, and breaking news stingers while acoustic instruments, mainly piano, accompany the chiptune in moments that the game needs to make an impact, whether that be establishing a safe haven in "Ruins" or evoking Asgore's sadness and reluctance to fight during the final battle in the bridge of "ASGORE." Though the acoustic instruments and electronic chiptune rarely play at the same time, composer Toby Fox's decision to use both lends the soundtrack heart and excitement.


This technique goes beyond video games, though. As chiptune has evolved with the creation of more advanced music technology, the combination of classic video game sounds with instrumentals has infiltrated everything from pop music to film soundtracks. Of all of its newest uses, though, it seems to have found a home most easily in podcasts. Music in podcasts is as much or more a part of the art as video game and film soundtracks, simply because it is a strictly auditory medium, so every sound counts that much more. In response to the weight music can add to a podcast, two of the most popular podcast creators of recent years have turned to the mixture of electronic and acoustic music. Joseph Fink's podcasts, Welcome to Night Vale and Alice Isn't Dead, both feature soundtracks by Disparition, who uses "electronic and acoustic instruments [...] fed by natural and unnatural sources. When used as intended, elements of this material may cause disintegration of categorical boundaries. Some processes are irreversible." Disparition's use of these two genres takes both of these soundtracks into the uncanny valley, right where these podcasts need to be in order to work.

The internet's other favorite podcasters, the McElroys, have also introduced this style of music to their storytelling. The Adventure Zone, an Actual Play Dungeons and Dragons podcast featuring the three brothers of My Brother, My Brother and Me and their dad, Clint, just finished its first campaign, the back half of which was accompanied by a soundtrack composed by the youngest of the brothers, Griffin. Though most of the music used in the show has transcended the name "chiptune" at this point, it is undoubtedly inspired by it and finds its beginnings in the same humble place. Using a Rock Band 3 controller, a cheap MIDI converter, and Garageband, Griffin started composing toward the end of the show's third arc in anticipation of the music he knew he wanted to incorporate into the fourth. The resulting initial soundtrack is mainly ambient music composed of 8-bit and electronic sounds. "I’m thinking of them less like theme songs, and more like radio stingers," he wrote in a Tumblr post after first introducing the music to the show. "I should mention that I have no idea what I’m doing and if everyone hates them I will immediately stop doing them, because I am an adult baby."

Obviously, everyone did not hate them, because they soon became an integral part of the show. As the next arc's soundtrack maneuvered between original melodies, Garageband loops, and vocaloids, a good portion drew from classic video game music. That's not entirely surprising, considering Griffin is a founding editor and Senior Video Producer at Polygon, Vox's gaming brand. When Griffin posted the song "See You Later" on Tumblr, he even wrote, "There’s some Secret of Mana and Super Mario World pianos in there, and I think Earthbound bass?" Chiptunes and electronic music naturally suggest new worlds, make-believe, and interactive stories because of their roots in video games, but the fact that the boys are literally playing a role-playing game on its own makes the decision to make the music sound like classic video game music seem like a straight line.

The thing is, Griffin never seems to want to stick to a single style. Within the same narrative arc, songs constantly flow between acoustic and electronic. Even "Oh Hey, It's Hodge Podge!," the most chirpy of the "Crystal Kingdom" arc's songs and possibly of the entire show, becomes a mixture of the two by the end. This blurred line between electronic and acoustic is exactly why the music of The Adventure Zone succeeds, though. Though every other composer obviously adds to their respective stories by finding a balance between these two styles, the line is not so blurred or essential that Undertale could not function if it was solely chiptune or Alice Isn't Dead couldn't without electronic. Moments in The Adventure Zone that are crafted with songs that span both genres like "Voidfish (Duet)," "The Purple Worm," and "Arms Outstretched," though, simply would not work in the same way if the music was not an amalgam of electronic and acoustic sounds. The duet between the Voidfish's electronic singing and Johann's harp just before the "Crystal Kingdom" arc begins actually put a lump in my throat once Johann sped up the Voidfish's song and turned it into something shocking and beautiful. "The Purple Worm" takes the acoustic drawl that so perfectly matched the ambience of the "Eleventh Hour" arc and cuts the bass with electronic beats and loops that back the arc's absurd conclusion. The entire "Suffering Game" album flits back and forth between chiptunes like "The Felicity Winds," ambient sounds like "The Wheel," acoustic tracks like "Battle Axe Proficiency," and club beats like "Wonderland - Round 1, 2 & 3," so when "Arms Outstretched" took each of those styles to form the music for the arc's climax it became one of the podcast's most moving moments.

Podcasts on their own are an interactive medium. The fact that they are an audio-only platform means that the audience must invest some of their own imagination as they listen. Video games by definition require audience interaction, too. In combining the implicit interactive nature of video games with the grounded, real-world attachment that comes with acoustic instruments like piano, harp, guitar, and drums, Griffin is able to back the podcast with music that inherently lends itself to getting the audience involved, provokes inventive, creative thought, and invites real emotion.

Cover Image Credit: read.macmillan.com

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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73 Clutch Halloween Costumes For College Couples, If You Two Waited Until Last-Minute... AGAIN

You're not official until you procrastinate doing a couple Halloween costume together.

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Still don't know what to be for Halloween with your boo? Take a look below at some fun and exciting costume ideas. There's everything from characters from awesome TV shows, to legendary couples or stories. Enjoy and have a Happy Halloween!

1. Danny and Sandy 

2. Salt and Pepper

3. Betty and Jughead

4. Anakin and Padme

5. Shaggy and Scooby

6. Cookies and Milk

7. Ketchup and Mustard

8. Nick and Judy (Zootopia)

9. Milo and Kida

10. Mermaid and Sailor

11. Minnie and Mickey

12. Thing 1 and Thing 2

13. Bonnie and Clyde

14. Netflix and Chill

15. Ken and Barbie

16. Mario and Luigi

17. Wendy and Peter Pan

18. Kim Possible and Ron

19. Boo and Sully

20. Mike and Sully

21. Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf

22. Woody and Buzz Lightyear

23. Woody and Andy

24. Ash and Pikachu

25. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible

26. Arthur and Buster

27. Wanda and Cosmo (Fairly Odd Parents)

28. Soap and Loofah

29. Steve Irwin and Crocodile

30. Lilo and Stitch

31. Leia and Han Solo

32. Leia and Luke Skywalker

33. Koala and Eucalyptus Tree

34. Double Stuf Oreo

35. Eleven and Mike (Stranger Things)

36. Buttercup and Wesley (Princess Bride)

37. Morticia and Gomez (Addams Family)

38. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head

39. Bob Ross and Happy Little Tree

40. Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin

41. Mary Poppins and Burt

42. Bandits/Robbers

43. Popeye and Olive Oyl

44. Mad Scientists

45. Batwoman and Batman

46. Cleopatra and Mark Antony

47. Bob and Linda Belcher

48. Top Gun

49. Dorothy and Scarecrow

50. Pirates

51. Cheese and Crackers

52. Arrow and Felicity

53. Zelda and Link

54. Wenda and Waldo

55. Crayons

56. Peter Pan and Tinker Bell

57. Cacti

58. Starlord and Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy)

59. Nancy and Jonathan (Stranger Things)

60. Dinosaurs

61. Sushi and Chopsticks

62. Chuck and Wilson (Castaway)

63. Superman and Wonder Woman

64. Your favorite emojis

65. Ty babies (dress as your favorite animal)

66. Axl and Slash

67. Rey and Kylo

68. Pizza and Ice cream

69. Mummy and Ghost

70. Wall-E and Eve

71. Pirates

72. Flo from Progressive and Jake from Statefarm

73. Any Disney Princess and Prince

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