Enough Already: Fun and Games Pt. 2 Oct16

Share This

Enough Already: Fun and Games Pt. 2


A blogumn by Jordan Weeks

Rock Band and Guitar Hero: Post-Modern Harbingers of Absolute Social, Cultural, Emotional, and Economic Paralysis, or Just Bad, Unclean Fun?”

Do you know what a Luddite is? That’s a person who doesn’t like newfangled contraptions. Contraptions like nuclear submarines armed with Poseidon missiles that have H-bombs in their warheads, and like computers that cheat you out of becoming. Bill Gates says, ‘Wait till you can see what your computer can become.’ But it’s you who should be doing the becoming. What you can become is the miracle you were born to work—not the damn fool computer.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, “Knowing What’s Nice” (In These Times, November 6, 2003)

Don’t hate the player, hate the game. (And the player. A little bit.)

I kid. (A little bit.)

But listen, this is no joke. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are not harmless, or even merely time-stealing, video games. They are social and cultural impedimenta and microcosms of a larger problem, which seems bigger and bigger with each passing year (and with each incompatible gaming-component upgrade). It’s like an across-the-board “programming”  (for lack of a better term) of Americans, Westerners in general, and folks elsewhere who have or will soon get video games, to be comfortable with what could be perceived, by someone given to such bold skepticism, as a corporate-planned move away from manual involvement in activities of all kinds and toward button-pushing “virtual” versions of these activities, wherein the human element of interaction with other people, or with oneself and, say, an instrument, or a canvas, or a pen and a piece of paper, are replaced with mouse or touchpad controls and button-pushing. Imagine a world where this could…oh, right; that is our world.

There is arguably strong encouragement from the U.S. marketplace, to get people to be not only comfortable with pushing four or five buttons to “play” a song in Guitar Hero or Rock Band, but actually to desperately WANT to push those few buttons rather than learn how to play the same songs on a real musical instrument – which, I propose, can and will likely supplant the very human desire to play a real instrument, or participate in any number of other real activities.

I submit that developing an “expanded” “relationship” with music with Rock Band or Guitar Hero, before or instead of doing so with a real instrument, will diminish one’s interest in learning a real instrument (because the person in question can already “play” the song, even though he’s nowhere near being able to play it), and could actually affect (i.e. interfere with) the game-player’s capacity to think on a real instrument, should he or she decide to play one in the future, as “successfully” playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero has absolutely nothing to do with the manual facility, dexterity, or technique of playing a real instrument (to say nothing of the feel of playing such an instrument).

(An “exception” may be the Rock Band and Guitar Hero drum-sets, which apparently require the player to approach the included pads in a way that seems to approximate how one might play a real drum-set, although the player seems limited insofar as his ability to customize the “kit”’s set-up; the pads seem to be arranged in one fixed way, and that’s how you have to play them. Which, in addition to being other things, is just complete bullshit.)

I feel like these two games actually distance players from music rather than draw them closer to it, because with these games, the player doesn’t have to learn how to replicate the music he or she is listening to note-for-note, or even interpretively, as often happens when one is figuring-out a song (especially when doing so by ear). Such occasional “human error” in listening allows the real-instrument player to play the song as he or she HEARS it. And the mere possibility of “mis”-hearing and “mis”-playing a song on a real instrument, which can often lead to greater instrumental facility, harmonic development, and creative problem-solving, is completely ABSENT in the Rock Band or Guitar Hero experience.

I mean, if you’re already a musician, if you already play a real instrument of some kind, then go nuts; play the shit out of Rock Band or Guitar Hero. But I have yet to meet anyone who dedicatedly plays an actual instrument, professionally or otherwise, who has any interest whatsoever in playing either of these video games.

Before it’s too late, do something real. Play something real. Make mistakes. Make some real noise. Live a real life, for the fuckkking love of God.

[Ed. note: Please be aware that Mr. Weeks is not a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist, nor any kind of behavioral expert or authority of any kind. He just hates these video games.]

Next Time:  Commercials endorsing high-fructose corn-syrup from…the U.S. corn lobby? Wait a minute…


Carvaggio’s Guitar Hero: Robert Rizzato