I have written extensively about music in my life, although for the most part it has been about what I listened to after I began to grow up. Most people have a point where they start to make choices for themselves as far as what art they want to consume. For me, that time was right around age 12, and I did it harder than a lot of people do. I sort of unilaterally decided that my parents’ music sucked and started making choices for myself. The first music I bought for myself? Pearl Jam’s Ten. On cassette.
Sometimes I feel kind of old.
It was not long before I came around, though. It was hardly fair to my parents to automatically disregard everything they liked. I never did come back around on, say, Cinderella, but like most people, there was plenty of good stuff in their collections. My mom’s favorite band was Guns N’ Roses. My stepdad’s was KISS. They were both born in the early ’60s and came of age right around the time metal started happening, and they both cottoned to it. My stepdad boasted of having seen Metallica at the Cain’s Ballroom with Cliff Burton on bass. I would be lying through my teeth if I said I was not jealous. Despite my mom’s history as my gaming progenitor, neither of them really played games with me when I was a kid. It was always my brother and me, and it was the two of us racing against each other when my stepdad came in and asked, with surprise in his voice, “What are you playing?” We were playing Rock N’ Roll Racing.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t quite have the points of reference I maybe should have to know what all the music was. It would have been really weird, given the circumstances, if I was not aware of the music in a sort of ambient way; I had been hearing it, in some cases, since before I was born. But did I know that “Highway Star” was a Deep Purple song, one that I’d be singing in Rock Band in fifteen years or so? No, not even a little. The only song I could have reliably identified as a Deep Purple track at that point was “Smoke on the Water”, and that was because the “classic rock” station in Tulsa would not stop fucking playing it.
I still kind of hate that song.
So it was with “Paranoid”, “Born to Be Wild”, “Bad to the Bone”, and “Peter Gunn”. I’d been listening to all of these songs since, you know, always, but they didn’t belong to me. They were for someone else, at least until we sank dozens of hours into that game. The MIDI-fied versions of those songs wove into the fabric of my geeky upbringing and gave me a whole new appreciation for them.
It also seems to give my parents a new appreciation for games. They never exactly came around on them completely, as far as the whole “growing complexity” things was concerned. We showed my stepdad the FMV of Cloud and company escaping the Shin-Ra Building on a motorcycle, and he thought it was cool. Then it switched back to gameplay and he shook his head and asked why it couldn’t always be like the cutscene. We didn’t have an answer for him.
When he popped in on us playing Rock N’ Roll Racing it was a little different. He was just curious as to where the hell that weird version of Sabbath was coming from, and when he saw that it was our TV, he was confused. He watched us play a few races and listened to the songs. It was not especially impressive, but it was a lot of fun. Who knows, maybe he even thought we were cooler for a second because we were listening to his music.
What he probably didn’t think about, but what I imagine might have affected him subconsciously, was that this was a sign that video games were something a little bit different than what he thought. They were being made by people in his age group, his peers, the people who had been in high school in the late ’70s, people who were, it turned out, a lot more like him than he probably ever considered.
I am almost the same age now as he was then. I don’t have little kids running around being obnoxious and keeping me awake or anything, but since I’ve never grown up and I have pretty bad insomnia I don’t think it’s all that different. I have played video games for practically as long as I can remember. I will never feel about games the way my parents did. There are, however, things that I don’t understand. When that happens, though, I do my best to learn the lesson that I learned when my stepdad identified “Paranoid” for us. I always try to figure out why people like it. I hope I can always keep that in mind, even if I disagree.