If you’ve seen the episode of “South Park” with “Guitar Hero,” then you already know that pretending to be an elite guitar player based on your skills on a plastic controller makes you a huge tool. In fact, many say that playing these video games actually hinders your ability to become a better guitar player.
Playing excessively can affect you in other areas as well. Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya was recently told by his coaches to stop playing “Guitar Hero” because they worried that the strumming motion would cause him to sustain a forearm injury. If you’ve ever played the game for more than six hours in one sitting, you’ll notice that you can’t see well afterward because you’ve been staring at colorful music notes on a TV screen nonstop, and I’m pretty sure that’s not good for your eyes.
Singing, on the other hand, is actually a pretty useful experience. While it’s true that you don’t have to know the lyrics to any of the songs and can simply hum in the right pitch like the chorus to that one (and perhaps only) song by the Crash Test Dummies, it’s still a very good vocal exercise, kind of like the “Mamma Made Me Mash My M&Ms” drill you used to do back in ninth-grade chorus. “Rock Band” is taking the idea of singing “Build Me Up Buttercup” in the shower to a whole new level, not only because it shows you the actual lyrics to songs, but it judges you based on some computer-generated concept of pitch and energy.
That is why I will always be the lead singer in “Rock Band”: because it is one of the rare instances in the history of video games where there is any possibility of an actual positive effect on some skill or ability. Who needs singing lessons when you can simply follow along to the words of Mick Jagger and be judged on a 100-point scale?
And, to think, all these years I’ve mercilessly made fun of people who play “Dance Dance Revolution,” going as far as to make a short film about a fictional professional “DDR” player. Now look at me – I’m living in a virtual world as a virtual rock star with virtual band-mates and virtual fans, playing other peoples’ songs and on medium skill level, nonetheless. Finally, after four years, I’ve contracted a disease similar to that of all the “DDR” all-stars of the world. Whereas these gamers just wanna dance, I just wanna rock!
On a more philosophical level, it’s safe to say that in feverishly playing “Rock Band,” I’ve dabbled a little bit in what it means to be a normal 22-year-old functioning in society. In a world where virtual constructs and illusions occupy all aspects of the media and, thus, our everyday existence (since TV is real life, of course), I’ve decided to at least temporarily ditch my sense of disillusionment and, for the lack of a better term, “reality” to participate in one of our generation’s most important technological advances – “Rock Band.”
And, I must say, pretending to be something I’m not is very liberating. My Sims-on-heroin avatar is covered in tattoos I wish I had, has a pompadour that I wish I could grow, sports designer jeans I wish I could afford and isn’t hairy like a wolf (I would like to clarify that my avatar’s body is chiseled, firm and lean just like mine, so no need to make any comments there).
With this cathartic experience under my belt, I may take it to the next level. I’ll start altering my Facebook profile to include bands I wished I really listened to but put on there solely for style points and a cute little quote that attempts to wrap me up into one tidy definition of being, yet clearly has nothing to do with anything I actually am but rather everything I want to be. I will watch reality TV so I can “get to know” real-life celebrities and pick up desirable traits that will get me laid. I will hang posters of James Dean on my wall to highlight my rebellious side.
In reality, I am nothing but an insignificant product of Hot Topic and MTV, which I will realize as soon as I graduate from college. When I face the real “Real World,” all the lessons I’ll have learned about being fake will function as the key to career advancement and getting a banging-hot wife to come home to every day. She may never fully fulfill my earlier rock and roll fantasies of whipped cream and midgets but will, at the very least, provide me with a devil-child or two, at least one of which I’ll look at and say, “Hey, he’s just like me. Poor bastard.”
And when I’m not busy taking the dog for a walk or beating my kids, I will strap on the old six-button, perform a sound check on the mic and sing my guts out in an effort to relive my false sense of adolescent rebellion to the tune of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” And I will rock. God dammit? I will rock. Do yourself a favor. Go buy “Rock Band.” It may save your life. Oh, and in case you were wondering, The Monsters are performing this Sunday at The Basketball House on 187 Westminster Road in downtown Rochester. We’ll be performing a little diddy we’ve been working on called “Paranoid,” previously played by some band called Black Sabbath. All fans, virtual or not, are welcome.
Milbrand is a member of the class of 2008.