We all want to be Epic Sax Guy. No matter our race, creed or political persuasion, every single person on the face of the planet has wanted to put on some blue pants, don some red leather gloves, pick up an alto saxophone and pelvic-thrust their way to glory. Now, thanks to the magic of video games, you can finally live that dream.
In Pippen Barr’s Epic Sax Game, players assume the role of Sergey Stepanov, better known as the saxophonist for the Moldovan band SunStroke Project.
The game has five phases — first, you must practice to learn the solo, then record it in the studio where you are graded by the recording engineer on your performance. After that, you can jam with the band in the studio and learn where to come in for your solo. After that, it’s on to Eurovision, the wild competition that made Stepanov famous in the first place. After Eurovision comes YouTube, naturally, where you can re-create the entire 10-hour YouTube meme and watch as the views climb.
The six-note solo is played with keys on the keyboard, one each for (concert pitch) E, F#, G, A, B and D. (On alto sax, that would be C#, D#, E, F#, G# and B.)
Barr’s game could have been a simple goof, but he’s actually done something very interesting — if you play through the game in order (and you should), the progression from the practice room to the stage is oddly exciting!
When it finally came time to play the solo at Eurovision, the lights came down, a spotlight went up on my little pixellated sax guy, and I started to play. I began to play the solo, and my on-screen avatar’s knees began to bend and shimmy.
Later, playing through the YouTube channel section, I’d mastered the solo to the point that I just started improvising, and had a good deal of fun coming up with melodies based around this sort of minor pentatonic scale+1. You can even play chords, which I certainly can’t do on any of my saxophones.
I emailed a bit with Barr about the game. He lives in Denmark, and while he said he doesn’t know if he’d call himself a Eurovision “fan,” he’s definitely more aware of it than he was when he lived in Canada or New Zealand.
Initially it was just going to be a straight up version of the loop and I was thinking about the style of something like the BIT.TRIP games, where the aesthetics improve/degrade as you perform.
But after a while I became really enamoured of this idea that you could follow the life of the Sax Guy, mostly because when I put in the Practice Mode and I needed a background I ended up drawing him playing at home, and it seemed so nice to recontextualise the music that I wanted to add more contexts.
As for the YouTube page, Barr says that that section certainly goes on for 10 hours, though he hasn’t played it nearly that long. The comments are taken from the page itself. Might this be the first game ever to incorporate real-world YouTube comments?
Any way you slice it, Epic Sax Game is a great deal of fun, and a surprisingly potent bit of playable history. Barr says he’s bummed that he missed seeing SunStroke Project live in 2010, which he missed by a year. “I wonder whether Epic Sax Guy would have been so striking seen pre-meme?” he writes. “Probably.”
It’s safe to say that the world will never know quite what Sergey Stepanov’s performances were like before that legendary performance in 2010. But thanks to Epic Sax game, we can relive those fateful eight bars over, and over, and over, and over again.
Epic Sax Game [Official Site]