|It`s Rock Band`s World. We Just Play In It.|
TomChick - News - 04/07/08 - Link
When I was 17, I went to the Park Plaza Mall to get my ear pierced. Which was a pretty daring thing to do in Little Rock in the 80s. We had these novelty stores called Spencer's. They sold fake dog turds and black velvet posters and Led Zeppelin mirrors. There was a high stool at the front of the store where a girl would pierce your ear, in full view of all the mall-goers. I sat myself in that chair, full of bravado with my long hair and my pretensions towards being a disaffected youth who would show the world that I was cooler than it was because I was wearing a fucking earring, man. And then the girl fired off the ear piercing gun, which sounded like a spear being chucked through my head. The next thing I knew, I was staring up at the ceiling while the girl applied a wet rag to my forehead. A crowd of mall-goers looked on.
"He fainted," someone must have said. But my ear was pierced.
I grew out of the earring within about five years. But last night, for the first time in well over ten years, I put in an earring. A little gold hoop I bought at a drug store. And, yep, it went through. After all these years, the "it" that I still got is a hole in my left ear lobe. Yes!
I was on my way to a Rock Band party, and my friend who was hosting it suggested we should dress up. All I had come up with was shaving my facial hair down to a mustache and bringing along a pair of sunglasses. The earring I picked up on the way was a desperate last minute attempt.
Most folks weren't dressed up, but those who were really did themselves up great. I was awkwardly situated somewhere in between those who dressed up and those who didn't. Whenever I had the opportunity, I made a point to explain that I didn't think this mustache was cool or anything, ha ha, and that I really only had it for the party tonight.
With a couple of exceptions, most of these people weren't hardcore Rock Band players. It was a casual party, with plenty of people off to the sides refusing to play. But if you've ever seen the uninitiated hovering around Rock Band, you know most of them will give in. It helps that most folks weren't really good. There was one girl singing on expert, and she was awesome. She might as well have been using a mouse to guide that arrow up and down the pitch lines. I guitared hard, but not well. Mostly, it was an evening of people rocking medium, but nevertheless rocking.
We were formed into bands. We put songs into a hat and took turns drawing. No repeat songs allowed. Scores were noted, but the rules sort of went by the wayside if someone failed. This wasn't a competition in earnest. This was a gathering about how cool it is for an apartment full of people to take turns playing Rock Band.
After every band had played four songs, a few judges retired to a back bedroom. Then they emerged with a box of little plastic trophies with award names printed along the bottom. I won the Gene Simmons Award for Most Animated, which is just another way of saying "Most Oblivious to How Silly He Looks". It's a skill I've honed over the years. My band's bassist was my buddy Cornbread, who won the best bassist award. He's an awesome bassist. He stands stock-still and he's totally square, but that makes him cool. And he was particularly cool last night since he was the only guy of the evening to score a 100% performance. On medium, but still... My friend and colleague Rich "HQ" Greenhill was our band's drummer and he won the AN-I-MAL drummer award. But since he's a Brit whose cultural knowledge apparently doesn't include Americana like The Muppet Show, he was a bit puzzled about why he was being called an animal. His wife explained it to him.
I don't really think of what we did last night as videogaming. When Rock Band first came out, I sort of regarded it as just another game( that was partly the point of the final Shoot Club). But I think I was wrong. These people will never play C&C3: Kane's Wrath or Viking: Battle for Asgard or Call of Duty 4 or even BioShock. This is something else, different and big. Imagine one of those maps of an empire taking over the world. On one front, there's a World of Warcraft salient breaking out. On another, the Wii is a massive red tidal wave spilling over borders. Just south of it, Rock Band and Guitar Hero are pushing forward a wide swath. They'll probably link up far behind the front lines, where they'll proceed to subvert culture as we know it. That might sound a bit overblown, but consider that last night, I shoved something sharp through my earlobe again. From there, it's just another short step to cosplay.