Over on Gameplaywright, the estimable Mr. Tidball uses the term “awesome moment” to describe something cool that happens while you’re playing a game. I had these things happen to me playing Guitar Hero. I called them “moments” for lack of a better word. They need a better word, something hard to say like “epiphany,” but I’ll keep working on that. Even “eureka” or “a ha” (not the band, the exclamation).
Anyway, sometimes when I was playing GH all my higher brain functions would shut off and something from my hindbrain would say, “I’m Ziggy Stardust!” or even a real person, like “I’m Brian May!” even though I used to play guitar and I know that I’m not really even playing the song. The game and the sound and the theme all added up to say, “Hey man, you’re a Guitar Hero!” Which is kind of the whole point. For me, there’s a little chill I get for just a second.
I got a few awesome moments from my first few Rock Band sessions. “I’m Pete Townshend!” “I’m Ritchie Blackmore!” Okay, I was a pretty lame Ritchie Blackmore, but goddamn it, I didn’t fail the song.
Working through the solo tours, I was not having very many of these moments, but at last, I got to Enter Sandman and “I’m James Hatfield!” Hell, I’m not even much of a Metallica fan, but I love that song. Guitar and vocals. “I’m Marc Bolan!” Singing Bang a Gong is a blast. These moments would be less awesome if they happened all the time.
So the awesome moments are still there. I’m happy to say that after all this practice, I’m less afraid to sing and play drums in front of other folks, and as cool as Rock Band is solo, it’s ten times more fun with a group.
For me, this is the theme of the game at work. All it takes is a split second of immersion to say, “You’re somebody else. You’re somewhere else. You’re doing something else.” You’re not just some doofus pushing buttons on a controller, you’re a rock star. For just one awesome moment.
What more can you ask from a game? Theme is the difference between playing a game and homework. Player interaction is fun to be sure, but that mechanical stuff only goes so far. Like Alessandra Ambrosio in a burlap sack, it’s still good but it could be so much better.