Simple Minds and the Gaming Unconcious

My brother and I have little besides parents in common. One thing that we do share, however, is a love – well, perennial interest – in Simple Minds (the band, not dullards). Thus, when my brother rang me (on my mobile on my birthday at some silly hour during the Fringe) to let me know that Jim, Charlie and the boys were doing an Australian Tour… well, I was in. An overnighter in Melbourne was required, but no biggie.

We wind up getting a hotel berth a short stroll from the Palais in St Kilda, so we wandered down Ackland Street for quite possibly the dirtiest dirty-burger I’ve ever stuck in my mouth – seriously, it was filth, like charred falafel and sawdust with red gelatinous goop for “flavour”. No matter; we pop into the Palais, grab a beer or three, and observe how the opening chords of the backup band caused absolutely no-one to rush to their seats.

We eventually amble to our seats (Row ZZ – fantastic, eh? It sounds more like a joke than an actual location – and there were still another half-dozen rows behind us) moments before the Minds take to the stage. And suddenly we’re amidst a performance that, as much as it existed in the present, felt like it transported me to an earlier time with a younger me. Which is odd, because the average age of the audience is – guessing – late 30s to mid 40s. Oh shit – that very nearly includes me :}

Initially, I was a little concerned… they opened with AnonymousNewSongFromLatestAlbumThatNo-OneKnows. Eventually, though, I hear the brooding bassline and always-warbling lead guitar of Burchill in “Love Song”, and I’m sold.

“Ghostdancing” has the crowd up and jumping. The mid-song interlude into “Gloria” is a treat, and only heightens the tension leading to the crescendous end of the song – which delivers gobs of glorious rock goodness.

It’s scary when you realise that the punch of the song you’re grooving to is “81, 82, 83, 84”, the era for which the song proposes hope. That I felt disappointment – after the initial quirky delight of the difference – when the phrase is reduced to a meaningless “1, 2, 3, 4” is a genuine surprise.

Whilst I’ll not say that this was the greatest show ever, the inclusion of “Love Song”, “Ghost Dancing,” and “Waterfront” made it more than worthwhile; and the only post-80’s SM song I like, “She’s A River”, received a suitably rocking treatment. Lovely stuff; a bit of filler, but that’s only to be expected.

So – what does this have to do with gaming?

The fact that this middle-aged crowd were on their feet – stomping, clapping, singing, wide-eyed with joy – looking at each other in recognition of a shared experience, a collective youth, led me to believe there’s a deeper connection to the formative experiences.

Formative experiences – those occasions, when growing up, that shape your life. That mold your soon-to-be-adult thinking. The common childhood encounters that bind adults. The collective shared knowledge of a generation.

And maybe that’s what we – as gamers – need. When will great games reach the same level of collective recognition as the great bands or concerts that create such indelible marks in our formative consciousness? When will they form a cogent part of the formative experience? I believe we’re approaching such an era now; men in their mid-to-late twenties may have had a childhood featuring a NES or SMS; in ten years time, people of the same age have a pretty good chance of being raised in a PS2 household.

Of course, gaming has nowhere near the social acceptance or availability that music has; it’s still a relatively niche passtime, a solitary hobby. But acceptance continues to grow – parents these days seem to see less evil in children plonked in front of the TV all day if they’re being actively involved in an activity that fires cognitive neurons. Right or wrong, that’s making gaming more mainstream.

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