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Erik Loyer: Strange Rain

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For the last few days, raindrops splashing down onto streets and tumbling clouds in grey turmoil roiling across the horizon have reminded us all of the power and striking beauty of rain. LA-based media artist Erik Loyer captures the wonder of inclement weather in Strange Rain, his lovely new app for iPads, iPhones or the iPod touch. This gentle, compelling and beautiful artwork invokes a dreamy, poetic state as raindrops become words, and words become bits of a story. The screen becomes a window surface upon which the drops fall; touching the screen not only attracts the rain to that particular part of the screen, but plays notes. The game is designed as a "relaxing diversion," as the instructions note in the beginning, but it also invites users to discover the story hidden in the raindrops.
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The project includes three "modes" - in "wordless," players enjoy the rain and music. In "whispers," players see individual words that evoke thoughts. And in "story" mode, we meet Alphonse, who stands outside a hospital, pondering questions connected to life, death, purpose, God and all the other vexing subjects we bump up against when someone we love is hurt. The game is designed to allow us to "play Alphonse's thoughts like an instrument," and it's a testament to Loyer's skillful design that the project hovers on the delicate boundary between achievement and grace. We move between wanting to score points by taking the time to discover all of the areas of the story, and just letting the story unfold as it will. Many of us approach these projects wanting to solve a problem or reach a goal quickly; Strange Rain encourages extended interaction, but the goals related to uncovering the full breadth of the narrative feel well integrated and indeed, as the story continues, the imagery and events becoming increasingly strange and unusual. By working well with tapping and dragging, the project also plays with our intimacy with our mobile devices, subtly making us aware of the tactility of our interactions.

Loyer has been working with electronic text in an array of interactive projects for many years. He is also responsible for Ruben & Lullaby, for example, another app that again reoriented our relationship to our mobile devices by giving new meaning to common actions, such as shaking and touching, and again used music as a key element in how we understand the orchestration of story and emotion through gesture and the interface.

Nicely timed for the holidays, Strange Rain is a welcome addition to the genre of artistic games and experiences for the all too often instrumental uses of mobile devices. The app is available through iTunes for $1.99, and would make a terrific gift for the media art aficionado on your list! Below, Loyer describes Strange Rain and how it works.

Strange Rain Preview from Erik Loyer on Vimeo.

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