There’s a special place beneath your computer monitor where all the little dead guys fell after you sent them off to battle Minky Monkeys, blocks, dragons and any number of other colorful horrors. Killed like flies and time itself, they pile up in the same way that God kills a kitten every time you masturbate. You’ll have to pay one day. But before you enter that particular rectangle of hell — shall we play a game?
The latest wrinkles in pop culture’s face are Flash video games tied in with music artists. Behind those games loop the catchiest hooks of recent singles. Naturally, in a world that expands adolescence into one’s late 30s, older bro hears the endless clicking of the space bar and appears. Rising from beneath the bong-stained crazy quilt of midwinter hibernation, he tells you stories about the old days — 1983, a time when the seductive whisper of the game built to coincide with the release of Journey’s Frontiers LP beckoned from the arcade. It was soon revealed that Journey might be incredible AOR rock gods, but they utterly sucked wang when it came to SHOOT THE FUCKING TURNSTILE, STEVE PERRY. COME THE FUCK ON. OH, STEVE SMITH! WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU SO AWESOME A DRUMMER BUT CAN’T SHOOT ENOUGH INFINITY SYMBOLS TO LET ME GET TO THE NEXT LEVEL I HATE YOU I HATE YOU. After your bro made you a festive privacy curtain from the shredded tape remains of his Frontiers 8-track, he knew one day you would understand. He would mellow out on his KISS pinball game, and you would taste bitter Journey defeat at the hands of FUCKING ROSS VALORY! USE YOUR PIANO TO SHOOT THOSE LPs! SHOOT! SHOOT! IMAGINE THAT THEY ARE THE BEST OF FOREIGNER! OR MANHATTAN TRANSFER!!!
Claiming some slice of disposable-time income in a legacy that spans Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden and Wu-Tang Clan crossovers, the new crop of Flash games tied in to promote bands don’t necessarily stress the proficiency with “hand-eye coordination” that mollified parents and other suckers in days of yore. No, they associate motor reflexes and timing with a song or type of sound. Not just for kids, though, the more sweetly hopeful online games include sign-on options for those born in 1901 — you know, the demographic.
A violent game for “adults only,” Bulletproof sets Mr. Cent’s street hassles in a doggie-dogg world. Snoop Dogg himself stars in the upcoming Xbox game John Singleton’s Fear & Respect, while Talib Kweli is the subject of the graffiti-themed, RJD2-scored Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. The Chemical Brothers offer Galvanize, in which an Ultraman-style robot battles mechanical rabbits and freaky dancer DJ Lizard as the Bros’ recent smasher “Push the Button” blares: www.thechemicalbrothers.com/game/cbg.htm. On the other claw, the game Golden Republic at the Rockstar Hotel stars a mustachioed lothario jumping on a bed and strumming his guitar with sparkly, flatulent rock power. This catapults televisions, toilets and other staples of rock excess onto the hapless shuffleboarders and partiers below, scoring points for whichever target bleeds or erupts into flames on impact: www.starvingeyes.com/gr/goldenrepublic.htm. (In late February, it was reported that a Chinese teen bounced off his bed and out of a Singapore hostel window to his death after his impassioned air-guitar playing.)
The Faint’s Dropkick the Faint!, www.dropkickthefaint.com, which touts their recent album, shows a sullen punk throwing off his studded-leather jacket and assaulting various onstage band members. Like so many shot puts, they’re hurled outside the nightclub; the farther the musician flies, the higher the points. Just like life! Meanwhile, Vice magazine commissioned Swedish designer Olle Hemmendorff to design Zombiegrinder 60000, a game in which your rotund protag shoots zombies while running faster or slower depending on what speed the grindcore soundtrack grinds: http://viceland.com/issues/v12n10/htdocs/game.php. While zombies gnaw at your fat feet and throw Molotovs, the game insults you when you die. Refresh, refresh, refresh . . .
Jason Oda, designer at Starving Eyes — the house behind the Chemical Brothers and Faint games and one in which Alkaline Trio battles Hitler in hell (www.emogame.com/alkalinetriogame.html) — admits: “There’s not much money in music these days. From a designer’s point of view, the advertising angle rather than the packaging angle is so much more profitable . . . and since these games are advertising, it’s a good way to go. The interesting thing about music-related games, though, is that the song is playing in the background the whole time, which is a subtle way of getting a person to listen to a song while having fun.”
Beyond life imitating art, now life imitates art imitating life. The Advantage’s latest album, Elf-Titled (5RC), features full-length pop-rock versions of themes to games like Castlevania. Elsewhere, using Game Boy machines altered in one way or another to make music, not one but three Game Boy Orchestras prevail — one from Poland, one from Hamburg and another in Frankfurt. Stateside, the comedy troupe Mega64 (www.mega64.com) takes Tetris, Ghosts ’n Goblins and Paperboy and acts them out to an understandably confused public. It’s a truly impressive thing to see ninjas, old men waving shoes, Death, breakdancers and torch-juggling guys all gathered in the street at 4:30 a.m. to gently harass the Hispanic guy in the pickup truck delivering the news. PAPERBOY CALLS IT QUITS!
And of course, there are hard-won life lessons. For example, as a man, you may claim four acceptable circumstances for crying:
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1. Your dog dies.
2. Your child dies.
3. Your mother dies.
4. Your PC dies while you’re killing zombies to the tune of “Bulging Vaginal Septum.”