Acclaimed musician, singer and songwriter, Lights Poxleitner-Bokan has been a hit with her electronic music and subtly unconventional sound. Having won Canada’s Juno Award twice, Lights continues to make a name for herself in musical entertainment. Needless to say, life can get pretty hectic for a successful musician who kills it with such consistency. That’s where Lights’s gaming hobby comes in. Taking time out of her busy day, Lights was happy to talk about her love of games, the influences they’ve had on her life, and about a game she is featured in — LOUD on Planet X.
LOUD on Planet X is a slick rhythm game on PS4, PC, iOS and Android. It resembles the likes of Plants vs. Zombies in ways. On the left end of the screen is a stage with a real-world artist playing a concert, in front of them are four lanes which are assaulted by alien monsters. Players must match the beat of the song while hitting each lane to fire a beam at the oncoming alien hordes. The game features songs from artists like Metric, Health, and of course, Lights herself. Talking about the game, it was brought forth that, like many rhythm games, LOUD on Planet X focused primarily on listening to and matching the beat of a song. Matching the beat means not necessarily focusing on the lyrics and other more prominent parts of a song, but on its less pronounced backbone.
As such, Lights likened this to the primary reason she enjoys the game and other rhythm games: it’s a great diversion. If she finds herself in need of a break from not just work, but from nearly everything, LOUD on Planet X achieves that splendidly. Players need to focus on the beat and in most songs that requires focused listening. The music itself is a pleasure to listen to as is, but when someone needs to take a breather from the world, and enjoy it, Lights felt they could do far worse than LOUD on Planet X. Going on to discuss the music selection in the game, Lights expressed her excitement in being featured with talented contemporaries like CHVRCHES, Purity Ring and Tegan and Sara – personal favorites of hers. This went into her song choices for the game. When asked why she picked the two songs of hers that are featured in LOUD – “Up We Go” and “Same Sea” – Lights revealed a surprising, game-oriented style of approaching the decision. “Up We Go” and “Same Sea” are upbeat, energetic songs and in that sense, they fit perfectly in a rhythm game. But Lights has made several high-energy songs over the years. So concerning picking those two specifically over the likes of some other popular jams like “Siberia” and “Running With The Boys,” Lights posited that while energy was important, the fact that the song players would play through was presented independently as its own level brought forth another important requirement:
“… I wanted something that was really like energetic, but [the song] also needed to tell a full story […] with a start point and an end point.”
When picking the songs for developer Pop Sandbox to put in the game, Lights wanted more than just a fun experience, but also a fulfilling one. It makes sense then that she approached it like a gamer herself. That said, Lights also related her view on what makes for an effective game soundtrack, using The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as an example. Firstly, she pointed out that Ocarina of Time was one the best games ever made, but secondly, expressed her take that good game music involves tracks which supplement the game’s visuals, themes, and tone. In Ocarina of Time, which essentially looked like a bunch of colored polygons, there was a happy but also overbearingly dark mood around the whole thing. The music reflected that excellently, in her opinion, and was the master stroke that sold the suspension of disbelief in the game world at the end of day.
As someone who’s played World of Warcraft for six years, and many, many titles since, it’s almost odd that Lights hasn’t had the chance to take her talents into composing for video games. Voicing a fondness of the idea, as well as a preference for being involved in RPGs – her favorite genre, Lights admitted she hasn’t had the opportunity yet. It’s the industry’s loss. But as a musician and a gamer, music definitely stands out to her when she plays. Citing a specifically modern tune she heard while exploring in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag as a particularly memorable track from her recent memory, Lights made it clear that she didn’t just play games to mess around. For starters, she got 100% completion in Black Flag before putting it down. A little less on the music end, the rebooted Tomb Raider held particular weight with the award-winning artist with not only its scenery, content and music, but also its depiction of Lara Croft. Impressed by the new Tomb Raider titles’ more vulnerable, scared, but ultimately resolute Lara Croft, Lights found the character not only inspiring but also a solid role model and her favorite gaming character. Though her exploits were still a bit difficult to relate to:
“…when she gets that [artifact] and there’s a ton of guys outside with guns… like I would have just grabbed the thing and got out of there!”
Lights described recent gaming habits in a way that gave light to a sort of trend, having gone through titles which had particularly gritty, emotional impacts on her, like The Last of Us, which in turn reminded her heavily of her tense, almost teary, experiences with Telltale’s The Waking Dead series. On the lighter spectrum, she noted spending some devoted time with the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy of games as well as some Diablo 3 with her husband. Unfortunately, Lights admitted to not being involved with the Pokémon Go phenomenon due to her phone’s busted GPS. Despite being the one most likely to get into it among family and friends, she’s ironically, painfully, the only one who isn’t. While discussing another recent gaming trend, Lights again stated she unfortunately hasn’t had the opportunity to try VR. Granted, she added that she was essentially waiting for a larger, advanced VR experience more akin to an open RPG. Sure enough, we’re right there with her on that.
Games have naturally been a heavy influence on how Lights produces music. Early on in her album The Listening, Lights put her love for World of Warcraft into a serene, yet epic track called “Lions!”. Zelda fans may find the opening of “Quiet” a bit familiar as well. When asked how games have factored into how she writes music, Lights expressed that her primary, consistent use of video games in her creative process has been to keep herself away from monotony and cynicism:
“You’re not in the real world […] with the depressing and sad things that are happening […] [games] help keep my imagination alive…”
With all the things that go on at a daily basis, Lights pointed to games as creative tools that keep her surroundings from negatively influencing her creative process. Going off of that, video games were also the source of one of her most valuable skills as a popular artist: communication. Having found more comfort in staying in, rather than going out and socializing, Lights gravitated quite naturally to popular MMORPG World of Warcraft in her earlier years. That was not without lasting benefits either. According to her, the biggest skill she picked up through her time with WoW was the ability to confidently communicate, citing general chat in player hubs as a primary example of this. Lights described WoW as the main thing that helped her out of shell. Joining a community where she had an entire other world to explore independently, and with others, Lights cultivated the conversational skills that aid in propelling her professional career and also make her such a pleasure to talk to. Lights has even relied on those skills to form her own community composed of fans whom she fondly refers to as “LIGHTS ARMY.” In essence, her love of gaming stems partially from the escapism, but also from the gaming community. That community involvement lives to this day, which Lights attributes to her frequent visits to industry conventions as a fan – this year’s San Diego Comic Con included. Lights also commented on how odd video game music can be, bringing up Mario Kart, a game whose music she has spent much time discussing with friends, as a example of music that sounded nice and somewhat familiar but had an unconventional composition. This idea of having small, unexpected elements form a song that remained approachable is a philosophy with which she approaches her own music. A fondness for old school video game music composition may just be, in many ways, one of the secrets that make her music so popular with so many.
Jumping off topic, Lights graciously revealed a hint at her current project. While it remains in its early stages and under wraps for the time being, Lights mentioned that her latest project isn’t only exciting but also a bit overwhelming, mentioning she found herself wondering what she’s gotten herself into at times. When asked, she also explained the motivations behind her latest album Midnight Machines, which featured acoustic versions of previous songs along with new ones. While in no small part due to a precedent she had set with her Acoustic EP, Midnight Machines ultimately became an acoustic album due to her desire to make her songs a bit more fresh again. After all, much of her career revolves around playing the same songs, so reworking those songs into different acoustic pieces kept things interesting both for herself and fans alike. Taking a last aside to talk about comic books, Lights pointed to meeting Saga creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples as a primary motivator for her attendance of Comic Con this year. Finally, Lights expressed her love for Wonder Woman – her favorite comic book character. She also went on to mention that though she found Wonder Woman’s portrayal in the recent DC cinematic presentations as oddly reserved compared to the more bombastic, fierce Amazon she knew and loved, Lights felt a kinship with new Diana’s personality in relation to the character’s actress Gal Gadot:
“She’s a mom […] and I totally got that. Like yeah, mom’s are heroes, man!”
Being a mother herself, Lights thought it was awesome that there was a kid out there who could look up and confidently say that Wonder Woman was her mom. We’re right there with her and hope that more people like Lights get involved in the worlds of gaming, music and everything else entertainment.
LOUD on Planet X is available now with limited time discount pricing for $3.99 on PC or consoles and $2.99 on mobile.