Friday, April 06, 2007

Selling Addiction

It used to be that the addictive properties of certain things (like nicotine) were hidden. After all, the manufacturers did not want you to know what you were getting yourself into. Now it appears the Madison Avenue types are taking a bolder approach: Just tell them up front that you are going to own their lives. Lest you think I am making this up, read for yourself from this advertisement for a video game.
Guitar Hero gives you all the excitement and thrill of being a rock star without leaving your home!! Guitar Hero features explosively addictive gameplay from the award-winning game developer Harmonix (the creators of Karaoke Revolution and Anti-Grav).Choose from multiple rock characters and jam at concert venues that grow in size as your rock career progresses! You’ll start your rock career playing small clubs and bars, but if you play well you’ll work your way up to stadiums and arenas.The songs in Guitar Hero are straight out of a rock fan’s CD or record collection. Over 30 incredible rock anthems fill every stage of the game. Jam to songs like Iron Man, Ziggy Stardust, Thunderkiss 65, More Than a Feeling, Take Me Out, and I Wanna Be Sedated!
Wow! What parent would not want to buy this for their budding rock star. (Yes, I see that hand; is there another? Yes, up in the balcony ... and over here on my left. We'll wait just a minute more ...)

This brings to my mind a few things that are wrong with our culture. (Judgmental elitism warning. Read on at your own peril ... or mine.)

1. Karaoke ... Only in a world with a total fascination with stardom and an almost complete lack of cultural sophistication can it be considered good to be able to try to sound just like your favorite star while singing to a sound track in front of people who don't know you and who are probably laughing at you. Fun? Sure, I guess. Much in the same way that it's fun being the only one not to know that your pants have a hole in the backside.

Of course, churches have been practicing karaoke for years. No need to tax the pianist by asking her (or him) to learn a song and meet with you for practice. Just throw the tape CD in the system and remind the church body of everything you do not have in your music department. They can close their eyes (along with you) and imagine the band. And you can hope that the technology does not break down. Be Sandi Patti for a day ... or five minutes anyway. Or Larnelle Harris. (Is that too dated?) If you play your cards right, you might turn it into a repeat performance for the second service. Or a chance at "The Greatest Karaoke Show on Earth" (my apologies to Barnum and Bailey). In my opinion, if you want to sing to a guitar, then learn to play one, or find a friend that knows how.

Of course, I am not against karaoke. But for all of our sakes, please do it in your car with the windows rolled up where no one can hear you. You will look funny to the guy beside you at the stop light. But at least we will know you are socially sensible enough not to foist your lack of talent and creativity on an unsuspecting group of idlers.

2. Self-proclaimed stardom ... I a reminded of someone who recently became somewhat of a public figure in the music world who proclaimed on his now defunct blog that he was a Christian and a rock star. I wondered to myself, "If you have to self-proclaim your rock star status, do you actually have it?" I have always been of the opinion that stardom is something someone else gives you rather than something you claim for yourself. And my understanding is that most actual stars would rather not have it since it greatly inconveniences everything except staying at home alone.

Not to mention the seemingly incompatibility of Christianity and stardom. Can you imagine Charles Spurgeon making the claim to be a "preaching star"? Or George Whitefield claiming "evangelism stardom"? Somehow, something about "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" does not seem to fit with "I am a Christian and rock star and if you don't like it, I feel sorry for you."

Now, through the magic of technology in Guitar Hero you can be a rock star to exactly no one except yourself. Your adoring fans are avatar-like creatures that exist in a chip smaller than the size of your finger. The upside is that they will not fill your inbox with junk mail and spam. These fans will roar loudly (until your mom tells you to turn the volume down).

3. Adults who play video games ... I am not talking about the "passing the time" video games like Solitaire or Freecell (very helpful while you are on the phone ... yes that is what I was doing last time I was talking to you). And I am not talking about dads who play games with their kids (though
might I be so bold as to suggest that kids would be better served with less video game playing and more of just about anything else ... particularly if it involves their dad without a remote control in his hand). I am talking about grown men who spend hours playing the latest incarnation of Madden football or some such game. These are the same people who have not read a complete book since ... well ... who knows. But they can run up the score on XBox 360 or PS2 or whatever is out now.

I advertised a laptop for sale the other day on an online site. A guy emailed me to ask if I was interested in trading for an XBox 360. I thought to myself, "Why in the world would someone think that I would trade an actual computer for a game?" I tried to be as kind as possible by saying "Thanks but no." Hopefully, I was not too overboard.

4. Sleepless nights ... Need I say more?

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