Myna: Zen in 8 Bits


Myna is a short-form video game that looks at the meaning of life, the universe, and everything through the perspective of a lonesome myna bird, trapped in a monastery.

Video Demo.


Its core mechanic is that half of the world is hidden at any given time: while listening, the world of sight fades away; while looking, the world of sound fades away. Through the playing of the game, the player learns to manage the stresses and strains that come with existence.

Time is fleeting in Myna, and controls are few: arrow keys (or WASD) for movement, 1 to engage with the world of sight (populated predominantly by the dead), 2 to enter the world of sound (populated by the living) through echolocation. This echolocation mechanic is fairly uncommon, but I felt it was a fitting way to meld and synesthetize the visual world with the auditory one.


Under the hood, Myna uses the Unity Engine, with embedded ChucK for real-time audio synthesis (courtesy of Chunity). There is a global clock that sends out events on regular beats (and subdivisions of it), imposing a grid on which dynamically synthesized sounds (murmurs, echos, sweeps, etc.) are laid. The echo waves are simply LineRenderers that fade as they dissapate and reverse direction on collisions. Feel free to email me at the address in the footer with questions on technical implementation.


The philosophy underlying the game is a sort of Zen anti-Zen. If Myna expresses that philosophy (I think it does), then I will have achieved my goal. In this uncanny world, the living monks spout empty phrases (generated by various Twitter bots), and the dead say nothing at all, providing small comfort as the subject feels less and less fulfillment. In the end, they can do nothing to stop it, except to leave the game. This aesthetic choice is why I refer to it as a short-form game: it is designed to be the opposite of addictive, to be more frustrating to play as one goes deeper, as one realizes they have no control over their destiny.

The only way to beat Myna is by walking away from it.

a webpage of Charles Foster |