Tom’s memorial contribution –
So one day at the age of maybe fourteen I’m sat at home doing nothing, and a friend a couple years older calls and says I should come over if I have nothing to do because he and a friend have figured out how to play old console games on their PC. And he puts the earpiece up to the speaker which, as promised, is playing a piece of music which I instantly recognise. It is Yuzo Kushiro’s ‘Into the Millenium’, which the heads of course know as the title theme to Sega’s Phantasy Star IV, and I’m kind of slack-jawed as this piece of music brings back the visual of the game, how that title screen looked, how I felt playing it for the first time, how exciting things were then. This piece of music goes like this:
bun bun bun-bun-bun-un bun
bun bun bun-bun-bun-un bun
bun bun bun-bun-bun-un bun
bun bun bun bun-un-bun
wheet wheeeeet wheet wheet
(bun bun bun-bun-bun-un bun)
wheet wheeeeet wheet
(bun bun bun bun-un-bun)
Also, something like eight years later, an undergrad drinking in the postgraduate association, I meet someone on a music tech course who’s hoping to get an article published which takes as its starting point the various iterations of Koji Kondo’s overworld theme for the Zelda series, which a pint later we end up singing:
do d’d’do do-do-do!
Now you probably don’t need me to tell you I was obsessed with video games as a kid: for a while they were my main and only interest, in fact. And it’s a sort of space, mentally, that music would take over for a couple years. (I’m simplifying: there was all sorts of pulp-fic and lit. going on at the same time, but.) But what’s odd to me is how incidental my memories of the two overlapping are: neither of those two pieces of music transcribed up there would I have been aware of as such, as music qua music, before the anecdotes I attached them to.
Year 10 and Year 11, as a certain type of Year 10 or Year 11 schoolkid will, I spent a lot of time at the houses of my steadily dwindling circle of friends, playing videogames and listening to music. The canon: There is nothing left to lose, by the Foo Fighters. Perfect Dark. ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’. Goldeneye. Sonic Adventure. Nevermind. Chu Chu Rocket. Late Metallica. Various wrestling games I never cared for or got good at. Late Red Hot Chili Peppers. A sort of Mario Kart rip for the PlayStation called I think Speed Racer, possibly Speed Racers. Command and Conquer, on two PlayStations, on two TVs, via link cables in a friend’s loft.
Probably about this time the first anecdote up top comes from. Maybe a little later.
Sixth form for the first time I had a PC of my own, and less friends I saw regularly. This was probably when my forays into online existence were most pronounced, it was definitely when I first started playing online games. This was sort of limited by my crappy connection and not knowing what to buy: Deus Ex online, for a while, and then Team Fortress, where I would be the only sniper with a 1000ms-plus-ping. Now, there were a couple records I used to play when I did this – I remember 25 Years of Rough Trade Shops getting an airing – but the number of things I played eventually dwindled down to just PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me. Which I can’t hear now without I’m working out how to shoot things.
So for four years or so I gave up videogames in the attempt to have a social life. With mixed results.
The next time I was actually addicted to the things was my last year at university, when I developed a Nethack fixation. Nethack, for those of you unaware, looks kind of like this and is like a Fighting Fantasy novel gone fractal:
This was about the time of the second anecdote; point of fact, I think the conversation went on to take in my Nethack fixation, which was kind of a big deal to me at the time. This game I soundtracked, mainly, with Marnie Stern’s In Advance of the Broken Arm.
(At this point the numbering system adhered to in the previous sections appears to go awry. The present editor is unsure whether this material belongs to the same draft as the previous, and would like to note that the order here is provisional and has been arrived at by a process of guesswork.)
as i meant to say: when we’d get together in our lofts, and play masculinity-asserting music and pretend to shoot one another, what was the music, then, and where was it? given that one of the socially accepted functions of loud, fast music is to soundtrack the anti-social socialising of young, antisocial men? what would someone as fundamentally anti-macho as kurt cobain feel about his work having to share a stage with load?
pj harvey as subverting cock-rock; marnie stern as subverting eddie van valen. the angry oestrogen principle
nethack as subverting the principle of fun, enjoyable pastimes
so by playing rid of me when pretending to shoot strangers on the internet, can i claim i was engaging in a subversive praxis? i mean, i would of course dearly love to be able to claim i was engaging in a subversive praxis. but: what if, as an act of borrowing, it reduces the music in exactly the same way as the loft stuff? what if i was just too much of a pussy to admit what i wanted was good old nevermind the black album nevermind the black album over and over?
there is such a bad movie on in the background while i am writing this. also, now i think about it, i can totally remember the synth sound of the bit where alys dies
can we imagine a videogame culture which doesn’t rely on borrowed machismo? one which finds other ways to be in the world?
it probably wouldn’t look a lot like nethack, which is kind of autistic as fuck
marnie stern’s guitar playing and the process of playing nethack:
both obsessive-compulsive in the best of ways
so wait, what did the anecdotes this guy started this essay with have to do with this again?
comin’ up man-sized
wheet wheeeeet wheet wheet‘