Games People Play – Labor Day, Sept 7, 2009

Apparently there is a major marketing scheme afoot to bring back the Beatles in a big way and 09/09/09 is the special day for that purpose. In yesterday’s Sunday newspaper advertisement inserts, all the big box stores were heralding a new video game, “The Beatles Rock Band.”

When I was kid (the kiss of death phrase that brands me a geezer right away) we used to “play” Beatles. We had nothing electronic to help us. Not to say that there wasn’t branded merchandise – there was. We had cheesy Beatles wigs and sometimes fake guitars, though mostly we used cut-off brooms. No real drum kit of course – instead, a card table with a cardboard sign hanging off it that was supposed to resemble the group’s signature logo. We’d put on the LP or 45 rpm record and pretend to be the Beatles. This was a gender-neutral game as we were all of 8-10 years old and we just loved the Beatles – just because…

In the third grade, (circa 1964) the Beatles were so popular that on rainy or cold days we would bring our records to school and the teachers would allow us to stay in and substitute recess with a Beatles sing-along. This included the teacher, who was just as enthusiastic about this as we were. We knew all the words, and we didn’t mind playing the songs over and over.

Flash forward. It is now 2009 and the summer is winding down. My husband and I happened to catch a couple of specials on TV over the last 2 weeks about the Beatles – wow – they had some pretty historic footage on these specials. And apparently the last one is being broadcast on – guess what – Sept 9th.

I’m sorry if I sound cynical but this is all very calculated and somehow it irritates me. Although my love for the Beatles forgives them all, whoever they are, making all this money on this new game. We all know that Paul McCartney practically owns Scotland. I don’t know about Ringo, although I imagine he is not destitute. I do worry about some of the heirs of John Lennon (other than Yoko) and George Harrison. The whole Beatles Empire is like the British Empire itself – a sprawling and complicated mess.

So who will profit from the Beatles Rock Band game? I would like to know.

Which brings me back to games. Video games. Wii, X-Box, Playstation. I know nothing of these. The last video game I mastered was Ms. Pac Man in a bar in Chapel Hill. Showing my age again, I’m afraid.

They tell us that libraries need to embrace gaming. There are librarians who specialize in game theory and design instructional “games.” The term “game” is now a verb, as in “to game the system.”

Gaming goes along with the Information Commons. So they say.
If the Beatles Rock Band game gives a new generation an appreciation for the music of the Beatles, maybe it’s not all bad. But I guess I am an old fogey in some ways. I need to figure out why games need to be in the Library. Everyone says they should be there. But why?

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