Am I the last video game aficionado who doesn't own any music games at all? No Guitar Hero, no Rock Band -- hell, I don't even have Parrapa the Rappa.

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Real Life Comics!
(From Real Life Comics! Click on the thumbnail for full sized block-shattering fun!)

I realize I'm very new to being back at this -- way too new to be touching on a strip two days in a row. And yet, I think I can get away with it for two reasons:

1. Yesterday's 'critiques' weren't exactly... critiques (hey, I thought they were funny. That counts for something. Right? Right?).
2. I wanted to do it.

Anyway, there were two things I wanted to touch on here. The first is Liz herself.

No, I am not implying I am touching Liz. Yeesh, people. Clean that cesspit you call a mind up. I mean I'm touching on her characterization. I've really enjoyed the last few days of Real Life Comics, because it's allowed for Liz -- often the Mary Richards of RLC -- to be the one who's gone nuts, while Greg has been the voice of... I'm gonna go with reason. I know it's an odd thing to type, but let's call it like we see it, okay?

Excuse me? Oh, you're not sure what I mean by the 'Mary Richards?' I guess it's been a while since we've touched on the Websnark Lexicon, hasn't it? Right -- let me recoin the phrase for you.

One of the most groundbreaking television shows of the 70's -- and indeed, one of the most important television shows in the history of the medium -- was The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary Tyler Moore had spent the 60's as a traditional Sitcommish wife in The Dick Van Dyke show, but in the 70's she went 'on her own' as a single woman making her way in a city without the comforts of traditional sitcom marriage. She had a career (as a television producer, no less), friends and travails. And the writing was among the best television has ever had.

What was interesting, however, was the role the character "Mary Richards" played on the show. In effect, Mary Richards was the sane character. The only sane character, surrounded by nutjobs ranging from her boss Lou Grant straight past cheerfully evil Sue Ann Nivens straight through to egotistical moron Anchorman Ted Baxter. Where in earlier sitcoms she might have been the straight man, feeding setups while the comedians went nuts, on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" Mary Richards wasn't a straight man -- she was sane, reacting to the insanity around her with her own comedic timing. As a result, she became the anchor the show revolved around -- the character that viewers identified with and empathized with. She made everything around her not only work but feel realistic.

Liz normally has that role in Real Life Comics, so every so often having her switch off with Greg is a fun thing. Dean did a good job in these strips by fully switching the roles off. Greg is actually sane during Liz's descent into video game mania, and it works across the board.

The second thing I wanted to touch on -- and honestly the real reason I'm writing this -- is right in the first panel. Liz doesn't say the lack of Rock Band 2 is bad or even uncool. She says it is undude.

Undude. "This is very undude."

Wow do I like that. I know I abuse the word 'dude' both in my writing and in everyday speech as it is, but I had never considered what might something undude before. It's like a whole new world is opening up -- a whole new perspective is dawning. Perspective is no longer limited to "dude" or even "duuuuuuude." Now things can be undude.

And that, my friends, is worthy of mentioning Real Life Comics two days in a row.

11 Comments

To respond to your question in the title, no, you're not the last video gamer to have thus far totally skipped the rhythm game thing (I lump the dancing ones in there too, personally, since they're basically the same thing, just using a mat and your feet instead of a fake instrument). I can sort of, kind of, fathom the appeal in principle, but I completely and totally lack interest in them, myself.

But then, I rarely spend any significant amount of time on any video game that lacks at least a decent story, and plot is most often the driving force behind my engagement with games (I will often forgive mediocre to bad gameplay in favor of strong writing. The reverse is almost never true). And rhythm games completely lack any sort of story at all, so I guess that's not surprising.

I read it as a Big Lebowski reference, but it's a great word either way.

It's good to have you back. :)

I will admit, to my shame, that I have never seen the Big Lebowski.

Actually, from what I understand, Parappa the Rappa not only has a story but was highly praised for its writing. And it was the first of the rhythm games.

Naturally, developers then latched onto the rhythm instead of the writing.

You must never have had any stoner friends then. Lebowski is the high-brow movie among that set...

And I'll admit that its less that I'm not interested in the various music games as my negative levels of skill in rhthym, tone or even button-mashing in the proper order...

I don't have guitar hero or rock band or any of that stuff. On the other hand I have actually played in a rock band and have my own home studio so I guess it balances out in the end.

All that aside... I now want to start working "undude" into my lexicon.

Must... resist... urge to give video gaming history lesson...

I will touch on the note about Parappa's story. A big part of why the game's story (which honestly isn't that complex; it was just well done) gets praised is because it worked well with humor. And one thing I can tell you is that video games and humor have had a very poor relationship. The number of games that have been intentionally and successfully funny are very rare. And for each Earthworm Jim or Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, you can point to a few dozen Bubsys or Earthworm Jim 3D games that were positively terrible.

Entire essays could be done on the matter - but to me, it's telling that the vast majority of game humor out there comes from mistakes in the game, mishearing dialogue, or inputting dirty words for character names. So games like Parappa stand out, although they're not always remembered how they should be.

As a side note, this slides comfortably into the topic at hand - Lego Rock Band is really funny while keeping the ability to go as finger-busting as the earlier iterations. I mean, where else are you going to use the power of rock combined with the "Ghostbusters" theme to save roadies who accidentally opened a haunted crypt?

Inasmuch as Greg might seem the voice of reason, though, note how quickly he goes along with all this. This is because of one simple truism - any gamer asking a different gamer, no matter what type of gamer the two are, for the other gamer to be "the voice of reason," epic fail and a massive amount of game purchase is about to happen.

This would be why I ask my wife, a non-gamer, to keep me in check when I want to blow $300 on import video gaming.

Yeah, "undude" is right up there with "such the don't" for webcomic slang coinage. :)

By the way, Rock Band 2 does have a story in its campaign mode. It may not be much of a story, but you're a band struggling up from obscurity to fame, with the option to play venues in various cities to build your reputation. As you become more widely known, more songs open up, and every so often there are challenges to unlock special abilities.

Also, you can buy or earn various articles of clothing, tattoos, instruments, and so on. (Little kids especially love playing with their virtual doll.)

Also, in reference to the comic itself, they're exactly right. I played LEGO rock band with my bro and his family a couple weekends back. It had easier modes for little kids, but apart from that and the cute LEGO figures on the screen, it's definitely Rock Band. :)

Dunno if it's site redesign issues or that I haven't used type pad in forever, but I couldn't get typepad to both recognize me and allow websnark to do so at the same time. Just sayin'.

Back On Topic: I actually avoided these games until Guitar Hero World Tour, where the drum set looked like it could almost function to learn how to play the drums. Even then, it took a GameStop sale last summer ($80 for the full band edition) for me to get it. Since then, I've gotten 3 more GH games, Band Hero and the LEGO and Beatles Rock Band games. So, yeah. Kinda hooked.

As for undude, the odd thing is after the new year's mega-quickie critique post, I tried (again) to add LICD to my trawl. This led to searching for the snarks on LICD, which led to http://www.websnark.com/archives/2006/02/you_know_from_t.html (I think it's the first snark on LICD, but it's kind of hard to verify that at the moment). The point of this reference is that Eric referred to LICD as "guy humor", Wednesday objected to the term, and further down in the comments 32_footsteps noted he refers to it as "dude humor". Is this relevant? Probably not, but it was the first thing I thought of when I saw the strip today, and the snark just reinforced the connection.

RM, by "little kids," you mean "90% of the people playing Rock Band", right? I've actually argued with my wife because her alt-punk female singer doesn't go with the theme for my main band, Mad Scientist Roadshow.

As for "undude"... I can see that. I still use "unw00table" for much the same thing (it never caught on outside of the three of us in that conversation... I guess you had to be there). I won't use it myself, but best of luck to all those dudes out there, while I try to be one with the w00t.

Logo: Sleeping Snarky

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