As I've mentioned in another post, many of the things I've learned in 34 years which have actually stayed with me are things I was taught by video games. I realize how odd and possibly pathetic that makes me sound, but when I started this blog I promised to be honest. I never promised to be interesting or relevant.
In addition to the lessons I outlined in that post, another one I've absorbed is that it's a very, very good thing that I never had any unfulfilled ambitions to become a rock star. If I ever needed confirmation of this, I get it every time my friends Jess and Andrea and I play Rock Band. Together we are known as "The Real Babes."
I will pause this narrative while the readers who have actually met me laugh themselves sick at this concept. In my/our defense, it was one of the names randomly suggested by Andrea's game system, and we ended up keeping it. (I wanted us to be the Blind Bridesmaids.)
We had previously played the game, several times in fact, with our church's youth group, of which I at one time was the advisor. This was an entertaining experience because we all kept having to take turns, and because many of us ended up with bleeding ears after one boy attempted to hold a tune on Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." To be fair, I myself probably sound more like I'm summoning an Eldritch abomination than singing when I attempt that song. However, it's less humiliating than singing "Poker Face" in front of an assemblage of church youth. Apparently, my face contorts into some moderately horrified expressions when I sing about "bluffin' with my muffin" while being watched by a group of teenagers.
I can, however, achieve 100% perfection on "Still Alive," from the video game Portal, even when I change the lyrics to suit whatever's going on at the moment. We discovered that when two of the kids arrived for our jam session while I was halfway through the song. ("I've experiments to run, there is someone at the door, la la la la la la still alive.")
A few hours of rocking out in my living room seemed like a great way to entertain ourselves while the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole wandered through our vicinity this past summer, so we hooked up the system and awoke our avatars. Jess is our designated drummer, but she hadn't been feeling well and didn't participate quite so much, so it was mostly Andrea and myself. Andrea, on the guitar, sported long spiky red hair, a jagged vampire cape, and black undereye makeup like clown tears, all of which I can attest she does not have in real life. I was on lead vocals with shaggy black hair, an hourglass figure sandwiched into skinny jeans, and an embarrassing tendency to kick the air whenever the performance was good. The hair is mostly accurate.
The reason I was on lead vocals is because it's the only aspect of the game at which I do not suck. I'm a terrible guitarist and an even worse drummer, thanks to an inconsistent level of hand-eye coordination. I'm not a great singer either, but given a large enough bucket I can carry a tune, and what I lack in actual skill I make up for with volume. For some reason I've forgotten, the Real Babes are a London-based band, so we started performing there and hoped to unlock the rest of Europe's major cities.
This was not easy but it was absurdly fun. I'm almost ten years older than Andrea, and was a child in the 80s, so I remember when songs like "Eye of the Tiger" and "Hungry Like a Wolf" received actual airtime on the radio as part of a normal playlist rather than some kind of retrospective. After unlocking Paris and blaring our way through "Livin' On a Prayer," we found ourselves able to hire a manager, who turned out to be "your mom." A woman who looked like neither of our mothers appeared on the screen, offering us a pair of clean underwear.
It just got progressively weirder from there. Victory in a band competition earned us a run-down van that looked like it could have been a Civil War ambulance. We acquired a merchandising expert, a girl who, the game gleefully informed us, spent her free time attempting to make out with one of us.
"Yeah, that's not awkward or anything," said Andrea. "Or, you know, illegal." The girl in question looked to be about fifteen years old.
"Maybe she's the bassist's girlfriend." The game had supplied us with a computer-generated bassist whose major purpose seemed to be stumbling around onstage, like my husband trying not to trip over the cat in the middle of a dark room.
We completed another set, congratulating each other on the five-star performance rating, and waited to see what rewards we might have unlocked. A trophy -- the "You Killed the Radio Star" award! Two new venues! And hanging in our closet, the greatest prize they had to offer...a new pair of pants?
"Are you serious? A new pair of pants?"
"More laundry for our mom to do?" I suggested. "It says that part of her duties as our manager is to make sure we have clean laundry."
"And to protect you from zombie makeup," she replied.
"No zombies!" During one of our previous jam sessions, I had left the room for five minutes and come back to find that one of the youth group kids had changed my appearance. I had gone from a relatively normal-looking avatar, who even bore some slight resemblance to my real-life appearance, to being decked out in what was supposed to be zombie makeup, with black blood dripping from my mouth. This was tolerably cool in concept, but the actual look of the whole thing just made me seem like a messy eater with a fondness for grape juice.
"Speaking of zombies..." She pressed the button to select the next song.
"You're really going to make me sing that?"
"Should I change your makeup first?"
"No, no...I'm good."
With a sigh, I picked up the microphone. I know it's just a song, but it always makes me feel...bizarre.
All we wanna do is eat your brains
We're not unreasonable
I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes...
"All We Wanna Do Is Eat Your Brains" is by Jonathan Coulson. I can't sing it without being a little squicked out. Possibly because it's being sung by a newly-made zombie to his former co-worker, and I know I've worked with a few people who seemed like they would be interested in eating my brains. Then again, I guess many of us have felt that way.