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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
Mike can be contacted via e-mail at




 Pretending to be a Beatle in Rock Band

Among the things I just don’t get - and that’s a list that grows every day - is video game rock stardom.

It’s been kind of difficult to avoid lately, what with the release of The Beatles Rock Band game, the one where you get to play along with John, Paul, George and My Close Personal Friend Ringo* at various stages of The Beatles’ career.

(*Not really. That’s a joke from my music critic days. Ringo called me to do an interview. I answered the phone and he said, "Hello, Mike. This is Ringo." "Ringo who?" said I. He didn’t think it was funny.)

Now that I think about, I really don’t get video games, period. That doesn’t mean I disapprove. If, for example, my brother -- who lives in Pennsylvania now, having worn out his welcome in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio - chooses to spend his entire visit to his home state by camping in our sister’s basement to play Let’s Pretend To Be Soldiers And Shoot Each Other, that’s his choice. It’s just not something I would choose for myself, seeing as how I have a life, and how I stopped playing Army a long time ago.

But back to this rock band thing. It’s fun to pretend to be a Beatle - I did my share of it as a kid - but I find myself agreeing with Bill Wyman, former bass player for The Rolling Stones, and Nick Mason, drummer for Pink Floyd, who expressed some concern about Rock Band in an interview with the BBC:

"It encourages kids not to learn, that’s the trouble," said Wyman. "It makes less and less people dedicated to really get down and learn an instrument. I think is a pity so I’m not really keen on that kind of stuff."

Added Mason: "It irritates me having watched my kids do it - if they spent as much time practicing the guitar as learning how to press the buttons they’d be damn good by now."

Not to pick on my brother - well, actually, I am, but as I said, he’s in Pennsylvania, so it’s not like he can do much to stop me - this is like when P.D. got all whacked out about a computer flight simulator. Played it night and day. He worked his way up from flying small personal aircraft to piloting jumbo jets - on the computer. But when I’d ask him why he didn’t take this diligence and apply it to real flying lessons, he shrugged his shoulders and mumbled, which is P.D. for "I dunno."

I’ve been playing guitar since I was about 10. One of the things I love most is that I’m still learning the instrument. Guitars have a lot of secrets and for most of us, they give them up grudgingly. That’s what keeps me playing - the chance that I’ll uncover more secrets.

But that takes work and dedication, qualities that are in diminishing supply these days. It’s easier to get a computer game and play make-believe. Why go to all the trouble of learning a skill when you can just pretend?

Oh well. As I said, I don’t get it, which is good. Those video games, I am told, can be addictive, and the last thing I need is an addiction to something that keeps me connected to fantasy for days at a time.

I may not get video games, but neither can they get me.




© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.