Here they are, the Fab Four, recast for interactive play:
Beatles Rock Band, released (in case you were on another planet and missed it) on 09/09/09 (or should I say: “number 9/number 9/number 9”), sets off another round of musings mixed with lamentations. Stones bassist Bill Wyman and Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason sound like a pair of old geezers, presenting their variation of a familiar theme: “back in my day, we had to…”. (in this case, actually learn how to play instruments):
“It encourages kids not to learn, that’s the trouble. It makes less and less people dedicated to really get down and learn an instrument. I think is a pity so I’m not really keen on that kind of stuff.” (Wyman)
“It irritates me having watched my kids do it – if they spent as much time practising the guitar as learning how to press the buttons they’d be damn good by now.” (Mason)
But whenever something associated with one medium migrates to another, controversy ensues. Or maybe faux controversy. Makeovers and retranslations seem to make good copy. How does the new incarnation match the original? Those who experienced the particular event in question in its original form can point to all the flaws and inaccuracies of the newest presentation. In future postings, I’ll start tagging the particularities of those complaints, which, as I’ve written before (sounding myself like that lost technology — a broken record) tend to be repeated over and over again.
Of all the reviews and assessments, I was struck by what Seth Schiesel wrote in The New York Times. He captures well our tendency to make idols of technologies past and be suspicious of their usurpers:
Yet there is something about video games that seems to inspire true anger in older people.
Why is that? Is there still really a fear that a stylized representation of reality detracts from reality itself? In recent centuries, every new technology for creating and enjoying music — the phonograph, the electric guitar, the Walkman, MTV, karaoke, the iPod — has been condemned as the potential death of “real” music.
But music is eternal. Each new tool for creating it, and each new technology for experiencing it, only brings the joy of more music to more people.
Do you agree with Schiesel that presenting the product of old technology in a new format bridges the gap between generations, introducing “the Beatles’ music to a new audience” and at the same time bringing “millions of their less-hidebound parents into gaming.” ? Or do you agree with Bill Wyman? Is this a travesty? A perversion of original intent? A means of encouraging kids to participate in the “virtual” rather than the “real?” Just another sign of our cultural bankruptcy — the equivalent to using “Revolution” (No. 1, the great one) as a soundtrack for selling sneakers?