SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
Dr. Feelgood: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Gaming [GO]
Jul 16th, 2009 by Dan

This was a piece I wrote for Gamers With Jobs to try and score a writing gig. They ended up going with two other writers, so I figured I’d post what I wrote here. Enjoy.

It was last month when I realized that something had gone terribly wrong . There were fifteen people in my apartment, maybe a tenth of them lifelong gamers, and they were all here to play video games. Most strange of all: there I was, microphone in hand, belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” in front of my friends. As my voice cracked on the high notes I wondered how I reached this point. Wasn’t I the same guy who refused to go to karaoke bars to avoid singing in public? Weren’t these people the same ones who scoffed at Final Fantasy and Halo?

I still remember what social gaming used to be, back when I was a kid. A mere ten years ago it was some combination of me, my brothers, my cousins, and my buddies all crowded around our tiny television set playing Goldeneye. If we weren’t cackling at our proximity mine craftiness, we were smashing in dunks while setting the net on fire, boom-chaka-laka. There was one constant and it was that we were all boys of various ages playing simulations of things that boys love. Shooting spies, hitting home runs, killing monsters, hand-to-hand combat, all of the social gaming conventions out there catered explicitly to teenage males.

Those times are over. The success of the Nintendo Wii has all but erased the teenage boy stereotype from general gaming. All Nintendo had to do was keep toeing that same party line that dated all the way back the days of the Famicom: make gaming fun and uncomplicated and they will come. In droves, apparently. The Wii went and did what we all thought impossible. All of a sudden grandma was playing. Wives, girlfriends, kids, old men, they were all playing and it was more than socially acceptable, it was cool. I didn’t have to force my girlfriend to pick up a controller, she wanted to come over and play tennis. It’s still kind of crazy, when I think about it.

Ignoring the power of the Wii when considering other social gaming phenomena like Rock Band is na├»ve, at best, so we must consider that the Wii created the culture of social gaming that enabled the success of Harmonix’s band simulator. After Nintendo convinced everyone that swinging a remote around and pretending it was a golf club was cool, getting them to jam to music they already loved on fake, plastic instruments seemed trivial. So it came to pass that I pre-ordered a copy of Rock Band and threw the first of many Rock Band parties the day it arrived in the mailroom of my dorm.

A former electrical engineering student like myself is easily able to cultivate a large group of friends who love video gaming in general, so rounding up gamers to try out the latest video game was a trivial ordeal for me. The real trick was rounding up the non-gamers. Word of mouth spread slowly at first, but it wasn’t too long before the people who had last played a video game in 1991 started to outnumber those who could recite the Konami Code on command. The moment it should have dawned on me came that January.

I had returned for my final semester, classes had yet to start, and I had rounded up two of my buddies who were similarly in town early to play some of the DLC that had come out over the long winter break. As the three of us rocked out, a very confused face peeked into the open doorway, clearly wondering what all the commotion was all about. Her name was Allison, she was a transfer that semester, and she was super cute.

“You wanna play?” I asked

“I don’t really know how to play…” she protested, clearly not wanting to embarrass herself.

“It’s easy, all you have to do is sing the words.” I was doing my best, but I was losing her. Singing in front of people she hardly knew was not on the agenda for the day.

“Come on, it’s house rules, everyone has to sing. We’ll all go too,” my friend Lee chimed in. We had no house rules, but he was a genius because she picked up the microphone and a friendship was struck up with a pretty girl. It later turned out that Allison had transferred to Cornell to be closer to her boyfriend, but the point was that my gaming that day was social.

I think it’s perfectly fair to say that Rock Band is responsible for me growing out of my shell that last semester at school. My guitar skills developed to an expert level and I soon stopped worrying about failing in front of the weekly attendees of Rock Band night. When I picked up the guitar I started thinking of myself as a performer and I began singing and dancing. Whenever I picked up the microphone and embarrassed myself, I laughed it off and developed confidence in front of my friends. The only thing I feared more than singing in front of people was dancing, but thanks to those parties, I found myself cutting loose on the dance floor more and more, even sans alcohol. Still, the revelation had yet to sink in.

We’re back to last month and I’m belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” on expert, my voice cracking on the high notes. I can’t believe that I’m singing in front of a girl I’m actually trying to impress, that it’s not even crossing my mind to be embarrassed, and that I’m actually passing the song.

A lot of criticism is levied against Nintendo for diluting the player base and creating the hard/softcore schism. After E3, the Wii Vitality Sensor was trumpeted as proof that Nintendo had lost sight of the goal, but, as someone who has grown as a person due to social gaming, I can’t stress enough that they’re among the few who have got it right. Gaming should be allowed to be social too. Who knows, you might end up someone.

-Dan Mesa is just a city boy, born and raised nowhere near south Detroit.

Game Overview: E3: Rock Band 2 Track List
Jul 15th, 2008 by Dan

E3 started yesterday and the amazing Rock Band 2 tracklist was announced in a press conference. I could gush about a ton of these songs in massive detail, but instead I’ll just post the list and let the tracks speak for themselves (list borrowed from this IGN article):

# Artists Song Title Decade
1. AC/DC Let There Be Rock 1970s
2. AFI Girl’s Gone Grey 2000s
3. Alanis Morissette You Oughta Know 1990s
4. Alice in Chains Man in the Box 1990s
5. Allman Brothers Ramblin’ Man 1970s
6. Avenged Sevenfold Almost Easy 2000s
7. Bad Company Shooting Star 1970s
8. Beastie Boys So Whatcha Want 1990s
9. Beck E-Pro 2000s
10. Bikini Kill Rebel Girl 1990s
11. Billy Idol White Wedding Pt. I 1980s
12. Blondie One Way or Another 1970s
13. Bob Dylan Tangled Up in Blue 1970s
14. Bon Jovi Livin’ on a Prayer 1980s
15. Cheap Trick Hello There 1970s
16. Devo Uncontrollable Urge 1980s
17. Dinosaur Jr. Feel the Pain 1990s
18. Disturbed Down with the Sickness 2000s
19. Dream Theater Panic Attack 2000s
20. Duran Duran Hungry Like the Wolf 1980s
21. Elvis Costello Pump It Up 1970s
22. Fleetwood Mac Go Your Own Way 1970s
23. Foo Fighters Everlong 1990s
24. Guns N’ Roses Shackler’s Revenge 2000s
25. Interpol PDA 2000s
26. Jane’s Addiction Mountain Song 1980s
27. Jethro Tull Aqualung 1970s
28. Jimmy Eat World The Middle 2000s
29. Joan Jett Bad Reputation 1980s
30. Journey Anyway You Want It 1970s
31. Judas Priest Painkiller 1990s
32. Kansas Carry On Wayward Son 1970s
33. L7 Pretend We’re Dead 1990s
34. Lacuna Coil Our Truth 2000s
35. Linkin Park One Step Closer 2000s
36. Lit My Own Worst Enemy 1990s
37. Lush De-Luxe 1990s
38. Mastodon Colony of Birchmen 2000s
39. Megadeth Peace Sells 1980s
40. Metallica Battery 1980s
41. Mighty Mighty Bosstones Where’d You Go 1990s
42. Modest Mouse Float On 2000s
43. Motorhead Ace of Spades 1980s
44. Nirvana Drain You 1990s
45. Norman Greenbaum Spirit in the Sky 1960s
46. Panic at the Disco Nine in the Afternoon 2000s
47. Paramore That’s What You Get 2000s
48. Pearl Jam Alive 1990s
49. Presidents of the USA Lump 1990s
50. Rage Against the Machine Testify 1990s
51. Ratt Round & Round 1980s
52. Red Hot Chili Peppers Give it Away 1990s
53. Rise Against Give it All 2000s
54. Rush The Trees 1970s
55. Silversun Pickups Lazy Eye 2000s
56. Smashing Pumpkins Today 1990s
57. Social Distortion I Was Wrong 1990s
58. Sonic Youth Teenage Riot 1980s
59. Soundgarden Spoonman 1990s
60. Squeeze Cool for Cats 1970s
61. Steely Dan Bodhitsattya 1970s
62. Steve Miller Band Rock’n Me 1970s
63. Survivor Eye of the Tiger 1980s
64. System of a Down Chop Suey 2000s
65. Talking Heads Psycho Killer 1970s
66. Tenacious D Master Exploder 2000s
67. Testament Souls of Black 1990s
68. The Donnas New Kid in School 2000s
69. The Go-Go’s We Got the Beat 1980s
70. The Grateful Dead Alabama Getaway 1980s
71. The Guess Who American Woman 1970s
72. The Muffs Kids in America 1990s
73. The Offspring Come Out & Play (Keep ’em Separated) 1990s
74. The Replacements Alex Chilton 1980s
75. The Who Pinball Wizard 1960s
Bonus Tracks
76. Abnormality Visions 2000s
77. Anarchy Club Get Clean 2000s
78. Bang Camaro Night Lies 2000s
79. Breaking Wheel Shoulder to the Plow 2000s
80. The Libyans Neighborhood 2000s
81. The Main Drag A Jagged Gorgeous Winter 2000s
82. Speck Conventional Lover 2000s
83. The Sterns Supreme Girl 2000s
84. That Handsome Devil Rob the Prez-O-Dent 2000s

I think I know at least one Jimmy Eat World fan who will be pumped about “The Middle” being on this list. One perplexing choice: Why pick “Where’d You Go?” by the Bosstones instead of “The Impression That I Get”? My guess, just trying to not be super mainstream, but if that’s the case, I hope this choice is much better. I can’t wait to FINALLY play some ska punk in a rhythm-music game.

Also cool in this announcement is that you’ll be able to export all of the Rock Band tracks to Rock Band 2 along with the cross-compatible DLC. The most megaton of the announcement is that Harmonix intended to have over 100 tracks in-game, but couldn’t finish in time. Players can expect a whopping twenty tracks as DLC for FREE soon after launch. Another great announcement is that the guitars will have a special photo sensor that will allow for automatic lag calibration for your TV, which is awesome. No more annoying calibration that doesn’t quite feel right. What a game this will be come September!

Stay tuned for more E3 announcements that I find interesting to be posted on this blog. I won’t necessarily be keeping to a one-a-day format for the duration of the show.

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa