How to save the world and rock out at the same time
Plastic buttons could only click monotonously in flimsy “guitars”, and the rubbery cables were silent, yet the normally apathetic television emitted all the passionate rock ballad wails and foot-twitching beats of as many songs as we could download. It seemed a bizarre creation, but I understood the appeal of Rock Band immediately. This was good, since I played two songs in 2008, then put the thing down and haven’t picked it up since.*
*Not technically true, but I’ll save the story of our universally agonizing Thanksgiving 2009 sibling performance of “My Sharona” in front of our parents for another time. Though if you know the words, you already get the gist.
Video games grew up alongside me, my digital brother Mario and my digital sister Barbarian-princess-from-Golden-Axe (who didn’t get a name as far as I knew, nor was specifically a princess now that I think about it, but deeply rooted sexism meant she didn’t need such things, her tiny red scraps of bikini were character enough) and we were one happy 8-bit family. We graduated together to 16-bit, and I was a regional king of NHL 95, armed with the knowledge that the only way to score a goal was the end-around, using mindless defenders to block the goalie. Yzerman scores again!
But then something went calmly wrong in my video game family, and we grew estranged, only communicating through Aunt Freecell and Uncle Minesweeper. We had a reunion on the estate of the Playstation 2, but it was temporary, and it was only through social media that I learned of newborn buttons and acronyms. Who is MMORPG? Third cousin, twice removed and once upgraded? Is there such a thing as a step-TBSFPS?
Meanwhile, in the massively multi-player world called “reality”, which was too mundane to inspire video games anymore, things seemed to be falling apart for Level 1 humanity. I felt a tender kinship with the man who sobbed “Can’t we all just get along?” even as I scoffed at his naivete, newly armed with adolescent cynicism.
But walking home last night through the enemy-less landscape of Oakland, I heard something that formed a mental meme, promising to bring together my long-lost digital sibling and my semi-functional IRL multiverse. It was, naturally, a TED talk.
Plunge people’s hands into cold water and have them self-report the pain, first alone then with a friend and finally with a stranger, and you will find that we don’t give a single XP/rat’s ass about people we don’t know. Basically, we feel threatened by strangers, so can’t relax around them, which inhibits our compassion, so screw ’em. BUT! Unite people through a bonding activity and all that falls away. What bonding activity, you ask?
Fifteen minutes of Rock Band will do the trick.
Something in the cooperative creation of music we know and love creates instant kinship. Primal bonding through rhythm and melody. So all we need to solve the world’s belligerence is send Rock Band kits to Gaza, airdrop plastic guitars into the Sudan, and pause hostilities in Syria long enough for a few tracks of Michael Jackson, and voila! World peace!
I’m so proud of my digital sibling. I always knew it would grow up to do great things someday.