A piece of disclosure: the subject of this article went to college with our esteemed editor-in-chief Nilay Patel, and they've played in bands together in the past, two facts that don't detract from the nerdy fun of said subject's work.
In this age of musical plenty, our biggest problem isn't finding music to listen to, but choosing which platform we're going to stream it from for free. It's a problem that would seem completely alien in any other decade where recorded music was something you could purchase and collect. How can you assign value to the music they love when there's nothing stopping you from hearing as much as you want, whenever you want?
As the force behind glam rock warriors P1xel and the Silver Sphinx, Gabe McElwain is doing something small to switch it up: he's inviting you to unlock his new self-titled album through a text-based adventure game. Calling back to early computer games like Zork and Colossal Cave Adventure, it's the story of "a pensive robot on a long-abandoned moon colony," and it was programmed, designed, and written entirely by McElwain. I played through the whole thing in order to hear the album in full, and it was a funny, nonsensical sci-fi adventure. (The astral concept doesn't have much bearing on the music, which is about as meat-and-potatoes and genial as rock can be.)
The game made me feel a sense of accomplishment
If you're the sort of potential listener whose eyes glaze over upon seeing huge blocks of text — or perhaps you've never had the best grasp on the mechanics of puzzle games — you can still hear P1xel and the Silver Sphinx. McElwain is releasing a cassette single featuring album cuts "Masterpiece" and "Make It Big" through Philadelphia specialty label Hope for the Tape Deck, and the album is available to purchase and stream through Bandcamp as of today. But if you have the time and interest, give the text game a crack. When I completed my journey and unlocked the last track, I felt something I haven't associated with my music listening and fandom in a long time: a sense of accomplishment.