The Beatles: Rock Band

A week from today, Harmonix/MTV Games releases The Beatles: Rock Band. Seth Schiesel, in his review of the game for The New York Times, says:

The Beatles: Rock Band is nothing less than a cultural watershed, one that may prove only slightly less influential than the band's famous appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. By reinterpreting an essential symbol of one generation in the medium and technology of another, The Beatles: Rock Band provides a transformative entertainment experience.

Toward the end of the review, Schiesel goes on to write:

Of course, almost nothing could be more prosaic than pointing out that playing a music game is not the same as playing a real instrument. Yet there is something about video games that seems to inspire true anger in some older people. Why is that? Is there still really a fear that a stylized representation of reality detracts from reality itself? In recent centuries, every new technology for creating and enjoying music — the phonograph, the electric guitar, the Walkman, MTV, karaoke, the iPod — has been condemned as the potential death of 'real' music.

What I love about video games — specifically music-based games like Rock Band — is the way they have exposed new and younger generations of people to rock 'n' roll. Pairing David Bowie and The Who with Nirvana or The White Stripes, the games make no distinction between new and old. Instead, they draw a line in the sand between good and bad, between timeless and fleeting.

No dusty record collection hauled down from the attic or confounding speech about how great The Moody Blues were if you took peyote could ever beat playing along to "Pinball Wizard" and knowing — discovering — for yourself that the song is amazing. So, sure, Rock Band is a more eloquent, concise and entertaining way to learn about music than a bad-breath-blowing-on-your-face speech from Dad.

With The Beatles: Rock Band, we can get inside of the group, explore its members and their music, dissect, inspect and perhaps appreciate The Beatles in a whole new way. But learning to love something anew, or for the first time, because we have viewed and experienced it from the inside out is different from a piece of art or music tearing at our insides.

I'm sure The Beatles: Rock Band will transform living rooms across the country this upcoming holiday season — maybe even my own — but I doubt the game will be a cultural watershed a la their Ed Sullivan appearance. Why? Because The Beatles invaded us in 1964; we didn't invade them.

Please share your thoughts about The Beatles: Rock Band. Are you excited to play it? How have games like Rock Band changed the way you experience music?

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