The Message in the Music

So this blog has been fairly dark for a long time (what else is new), but if you’re absolutely wanting to read anything that I write, I’ve been reviewing games over at Pixel Judge since February. On with the show…

I’ve been listening to a lot of songs I haven’t really looked at in the past, two of which are the 1983 Tears For Fears Single ‘Mad World’, and it’s later cover for the 2001 movie Donnie Darko – performed by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews. While I generally tend to write off most commercial cover versions of songs as the efforts of lesser artists attempting to latch on the fame of their betters, I have a soft spot for anyone who takes the song and makes it their own – those who change the feel or the meaning of the song (or those who play it for comedy) – and this is one of the better examples that I’ve come across.

Here’s the original:

And here’s the Cover:

The only thing that’s different between the two is the musical arrangement, yet both inspire different feelings within me.

The way Tears For Fears arranged it, with the heavy synth and percussion, stirs feelings of impotent rage at the surrounding world, and the anguish that can come of that when there is no way of truly expressing that anger – expressing in that anguish that “I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad, the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had”, that there is no other way to express their frustration and anger at the mad world around them then to remove themselves from it entirely. It feels more like a young person’s embittered plea for something to make sense in a world that seems to be getting stranger and stranger.

Gary Jules’ version, with it’s slow piano and laid back lyrical performance, speaks more of a older person struggling with depression, left wondering how things had changed so rapidly, and what happened to the idealistic dreamer that they once were. Left with no ability to change their past, they see no potential in their future, and they lament that the only dreams they have that’s worth anything are the dreams in which they are dying….

So maybe this was a bit of a depressing song to talk about….in any case, are there any other examples of a cover bringing a different interpretation of a song to the table? Let us know you’re favourites.

Standing in the Hall of Fame

So I’ve been listening to ‘Hall of Fame’ by The Script a lot over the past few days, and it’s really fired my imagination and drive to write (hence an actual post here). Here’s the official video:

There comes a time in everyone’s life where they have to ask the questions ‘What have I done/will I do with my life?’ ‘What have/will I achieved?’ ‘How did/will I live my life?’ ‘Am I satisfied with this??’. These are the questions by which we guide our lives, and by which we judge the time that we have on this earth. For some, these questions are asked earlier in life – they led me away from a life of study and into a field where I can more tangibly see the fruits of my labor – and nearly everyone asks themselves these questions in their twilight years. I’m of the mindset that these are questions that present themselves in times of crisis in people’s lives – times when one part of their life is over, and another is beginning (i.e. myself, earlier this year when my studies had come to a close; or the near cliche ‘mid-life crisis’) – and, when looking back, are the points that people remember most clearly.

So what does that have to do with the song I’ve posted above? The song is simply a call to remember that there will come a time where you look at your life, and ask those questions. It’s a call to dream – ‘be students, be teachers, be politicians, be preachers. Be believers, be leaders, be astronauts, be champions, be truth seekers’ – and see those dreams through to the end. Because there will come a day when you are standing in the Hall of Fame, and when that day comes, will you simply be watching as others are given accolades for the way they lived their lives, or will you be one of those who will be known as someone who lived a worthy life?

Frank Sinatra sang a song by the name of ‘My Way’, which looks at these same questions from the other end of life – The Script looking from the point of view of those who are dreaming, Sinatra from the point of view looking of those looking back at the dreams they had and achieved – declaring that in spite of all that came his way – the struggles, the pain and the regrets – that, as he looked back, he could declare that he was happy with the way his life turned out. And that is, for many, the goal. Many people, myself included, simply have a desire that, when they are at the end of their allotted time on Earth, they can say:

And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way,
“Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way”

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!

- ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra

 

Religion in Games

My beloved Extra Credits series has finally started their much promised* series on the way religion is depicted and used within the video game medium…..I don’t have the time to write about it now, and I want to wait until they’ve finished their discussion of the topic before I comment, but I would strongly recommend giving it a watch, you can find it here.

 

*Seriously it was over 2 years ago that they first talked about doing this…..it’s not an easy topic to cover

Dystopian Future?

Note: this post was started several weeks ago, was stopped because I didn’t have access to the books I’m going to be talking about (being away from home at the time), and took a while to start back up again. So the events that inspired this post are a few weeks old, just bear that in mind.

I don’t make a secret of the fact that one of my favourite genres of novel/movie is Science Fiction – and I have a keen interest in those stories that present a Dystopian picture of the future (i.e. 1984; Brave New World; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep/Blade Runner; V for Vendetta). So when John Carmack (One of the Founders of ID Software – one of the oldest game developers) tweeted recently that he’s been reading both of them (and comparing them – for reasons unknown), it got me seriously thinking (as my brain just decides to do around 1am while I’m trying to sleep) about both books (and the genre as a whole).

Warning: The following post may contain traces of Literary Deconstructionism, which will make my English Teachers very proud of me, and may cause me to cry myself to sleep tonight – since I have previously declared I would never use the skills taught in High School English, and am now proven wrong.

The first thing I did was respond to Mr Carmack, saying that both books are amazing (which they are, not recommended for younger readers, but good books), but I wonder whether society (Western, First-World, society in particular) has learnt the lessons that both books sought to teach – important lessons that they are.

Brave New World paints a picture of the end result of the never-ending search for happiness that many seem to be on today. It paints a world where everyone is kept supplied with a narcotic that functions as a sleeping pill, stress reliever, ‘personal “holiday” pill’, etc – all with no side effects – and no-one ages past 20, a society where people are bred to perform specific tasks in sterile laboratories, and conditioned in a way that not doing those jobs (or the set of predetermined tasks/activities they are bred for) is unthinkable. Those that are bred to be part of the upper classes (the thinkers, managers, scientists, etc) are given more freedom of choice, but are still heavily regulated by the government to prevent ‘tampering’ with the way society is set up. When a character from the outside is brought in, the criticism that he makes of the world created to supply endless happiness to everyone in the book’s climax is particularly scathing:

Mustapha Mond (Member of ruling government): We prefer to do things comfortably.”

John the Savage (not born in ‘civilised society’): “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.

“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

Brave New World is a book that is supposed to make you think ‘what are we as a society, as a people, giving up when we seek only our own comfort and happiness?’ I think the answer to that question is that, in giving up the ability to be unhappy, we give up the opportunity to find joy – a much deeper and more fulfilling emotion than happiness.

In contrast, 1984 paints a view of the world where the government has gone crazy with control. A society where at some point all the checks and balances that keep governments accountable to the people they represent are torn down. The government spies on its citizens (through mandatory listening/video devices in every place of residence), and tampers with any and all records – either to retroactively prove that they were right about an event (such as the forecasts for how well the economy will do), or to fabricate evidence against those who have become too troublesome to keep around (government members who have outlived their usefulness, or pre-revolutionaries). The only rebellion against this regime that we see the main characters (Winston and Julia) engaged in is minor – as minor rebellion is really all that they are capable of achieving – while there are only dreams of a major revolt on the part of the main character, nothing concrete ever happens, and the main antagonist of the story dismisses Winston’s fantasies outright. It paints a bleak picture (as does Brave New World, although I don’t want to spoil too much of either book), which was inspired by events in the past, and it is echoed still in one country today. While I don’t think that we will see a radical change in our society at some point in the future that brings us closer to the world of 1984, it does bring into focus a possible endpoint for our society’s obsession with security – personal, societal and national. If we already possess the ability to spy on people through their phones, etc – what is to stop people from using that same technology to prevent possible threats to their own power or way of life? Where is the line drawn now, and what prevents people from stepping over it?

In any case, this is feeling like it’s turning into paranoid raving, so I’ll just leave you all with the following quote, and some questions to think about:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture….In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”  – Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves to Death)

Have we as a society learnt the lessons that Aldus Huxley and George Orwell left in their writings? Are there lessons that the rest of the Utopian/ dystopian genre can teach us that we are forgetting? Are they lessons that everyone should learn? What do we stand to lose if people forget them?

fr33lanc3rftk:

There will be a post here now that I’ve got a bit more time for blogging, and some thoughts to share, but I thought I’d let everyone else know what I’m up to at the moment.

Originally posted on Digital Missions Blog:

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted something on this blog (or any of the blogs I write for that matter). I can’t say much other than point to a mindset that really didn’t leave a lot of room for blogging, or any space for particularly deep thinking. This mindset also didn’t lend itself to any form of digital mission – most of my year has been spent just ‘keeping active’ on the games I play – little to no communication with anyone, but still playing.

That’s changed through a long process that I don’t want to talk about here. Today I joined a new world on Tribal Wars – one very similar to the world where I had the most success with building relationships in the past – and I sincerely pray that I remain true to the calling I feel upon my life, and the Gospel which…

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Worship through gaming?

Yesterday I posted the following questions on both my Facebook wall, and my Twitter feed:

Is it possible that playing/making a video game could be considered an act of worship? and, is it possible for a video game to stir or invoke a feeling of worship in the same way a painting/picture or a song can?

It was a question that had been on my mind for a big part of the day – having come to mind during a discussion of worship (and the variety of things that my church does to create an atmosphere where people can worship God) during the creative ministries team (band, painters, dancers, and other creatives) practice.

My opinion* is that games have the potential to evoke a sense of worship – after all, people have made games designed to evoke a variety of different questions and feelings, with differing levels of success – but I haven’t come across one that does at this point (I’d like to at some point in my life though – get on it Christian Game Developers!). The question of whether playing a game can be an act of worship is much more complicated to answer. On a simple level, worship is the total surrender of every aspect of a Christian’s life to God – everything we think, do, say, etc, etc. So the comment given by my friend Craig – “Considering that ‘true’ worship is how we conduct all of our lives, it then depends whether or not you would consider playing that video game a Godly event or not.” – is something that cuts straight to the heart of the matter. As it is, I’m not sure where I stand on that – many games released probably aren’t the best things to expose to a mind that seeks to put God first, and there’s the whole escapism thing, and the addiction/compulsion issue, both of which complicate the matter further.

I believe that a Christian Developer^ working on a game who dedicates their passion for the project at hand, and the work they put into it, to God’s glory is performing an act of worship – much as in the same way a Christian painter worships God as they paint, or a Christian musician worships through practice and performance – and I believe that a game made with the intention of bringing players to a place of worship can be as effective (if not more) as a painting or a song made with the same intentions.  As for whether a Christian Gamer can worship through playing games, well, I cannot give an answer – there are too many questions to consider at this point. Maybe someone with more experience behind them, and a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, will provide an answer – maybe if no-one does, I’ll come back in a few decades with a true answer to the question.

Until then, feel free to debate it in the comments.

*Which could be taken with a grain of salt, I’m sure that people smarter and better informed than I am will argue these questions in years to come with much more authority.

^Christian denoting the developer’s faith, not the game that they are necessarily working on