Guitar (Anti-) Hero

Rock bandI like to have a good time. I like parties and I like to talk to my friends on those rare occasions when we all actually get together in real life (as opposed to this virtual world we seem to be falling into deeper and deeper). So, it is with great anticipation that I approach the Annual Winterfest in Brutus, Michigan that has become the de facto GLONO retreat every February. It’s a chance for me to get some snowboarding in and to debate everything from the latest Oasis album to Hillary’s implosion with people for whom I hold the highest respect and regard.

This year, however, saw the return of an unwelcome guest. A rude scourge who interrupts conversation and monopolizes the stereo. I am talking about the ever growing intrusion of Guitar Hero/Rock Band on what should be an otherwise perfectly good time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love some good karaoke and have played both of these games and understand the attraction. Who doesn’t love to bash out some air guitar to favorite songs while racking up points and impressing your friends? But shouldn’t there be a limit? Can’t we impose a curfew on a game that detracts from the real reason we all came together? Must EVERY gathering of friends devolve into a session of pseudo musical competition?

The first night of Snowfest was good. After checking into our cabin, we headed over to HQ to check in and have a few drinks. Night one is generally lower key and involves a lot of catching up and a little bit of winter activity. Years past have seen midnight ice walks on a frozen Burt Lake, and a fair share of snow wrestling. This year found eight or ten of us sequestered in the garage for some Rock Band pre-lims. It was my introduction to the game and I sat in on drums for four or five songs and really did have a fine time. Loftus arrived well after my drunk-line and I only spoke to him briefly before hitching a ride back to my cabin.

The second day found GLONO founder Sab and I on the finely groomed hills of Boyne Highlands for a day of shredding and one gut wrenching, disgusting hot dog from the warming station. I should have known better but the idea of a “Coney Dog” after hours of clumsy cutting and occasional falls on the hill was too much to ignore and I fell for their particular brand of culinary false advertising. I would be sorry.

Night Two found much of the same from Night One, with the addition of the annual Burning of the Christmas Tree (yes, a month and a half after Christmas) bonfire and a protracted session of Rock Band. The ghost of that awful chili dog sent me home early but reports from the scene say that the game went on until the wee hours of the morning with some party-goers begging for a return to normal radio and actual human interaction. But the show must go on, even at the expense of a good party.

I’ve been in real bands, so maybe I am biased. I have basked in the adoration of fans—OK, not adoration, but at least polite applause—so it might not be fair for me to criticize the allure of a digital battle of the bands conducted in basements, rec-rooms, and garages throughout this great land of ours. But for fuck’s sake, can we please put down the plastic controller and converse for once???

Snowfest 2008 was great. It was my break from the city and a chance to see friends who gather maybe once a year. So forgive me if I seem to be a bit jealous of a game that has clearly captured the attention of a million geeks-turned-rock-gods. What can I say? I miss my friends.

5 thoughts on “Guitar (Anti-) Hero”

  1. So… is it possible to maintain a balance? Playing games can be a fun group activity, right? Only, like, three people play at a time, right? So can’t the rest of the people have normal drunken conversations when it’s not their turn?

    I (sadly) wasn’t there this year, so I can’t comment on the specifics, but it sure seems like there ought to be room/time/interest for both game playing and regular drunken party antics. No? Is Rock Band so addictive that people can’t pull themselves away for a few minutes to hang out in the Man Hole and listen to their host’s iTunes play the Propellerheads and Johnny Cash?

    I guess my main question is: How is Rock Band any different from darts?

  2. I think it is about the addictive quality of Rock Band/Guitar Hero. That and the requirement of total concentration during game play. Even with darts, there are moments in between each throw to sip a beer and shoot the shit.

    And sure, non-players could saunter off to talk amongst themselves, and that did happen, but the games dominated the party and took over what has become Ground Zero for Snowfest: the garage. If you wanted to see everyone, you were in the garage…where everyone was playing Rock Band.

  3. Rock Band needs to have two extra players that are not currently coded into the game. One is the virtual roadie to tell everyone what buttons to press so that you can actually get a song going. The other is the virtual club manager to tell everyone that the crowd has heard enough and the “band” needs to get off the fucking stage and pay their bar tab.

Leave a Reply