Cracking Wise: “Endless Setlist” wasn’t kidding

By David Mendez

So, I think I’ve got an understanding of what a repetitive stress injury feels like.

Against my better judgment, I spent the better part of Labor Day weekend trying to beat Rock Band’s “Endless Setlist” on the hardest settings with an old roommate.

For people who just crawled out of a cave, Rock Band is one of the many music-based games currently on the market, alongside such games as Guitar Hero (the “Kleenex” of music games), Lips (the “Puffs” of music games) and DJ Hero (the toilet paper you blow your nose with when you can’t find anything else.)

Guitar Hero is famous for letting you pretend you can play guitar so long as you can hit buttons in time with notes scrolling past on your TV. Lips is what people who are too shy for karaoke buy to pretend they’re on American Idol.

DJ Hero just sucks. I feel bad for you if you paid full price. (DJ Hero’s retail price dropped from $120 on its release date to $40 as of this writing. The funny part? They’re making a sequel.)

Rock Band was the first to combine singing, guitar and bass “playing” with a drum controller, allowing you and at least three friends to live out your rock star fantasies from the comfort of your living room.

Of course, that’s at the cost of the advantages (“money for nothing and chicks for free”) and disadvantages (rehab and eventual obscurity) of life on the road.

Which leads us back to me and my former roommate, Nick.

The weekend happened to be Nick’s last in Tucson before he relocated to Los Angeles for graduate studies, so we decided to do what we always did when we killed a day hanging out: consume copious amounts of pizza, soda and beer while playing through Rock Band (Note: I think that’s the most stereotypical modern-male-college-experience sentence I’ve ever written.)

I’ll spare you most of the bragging, but he (on drums) and I (on guitar) have gotten pretty good at this game, particularly for people who claim to have real lives. We figured it would take about six hours, max, and then we’d have time to spare at the bars drinking and losing our nerves before talking to girls. We started playing at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Excluding the breaks we took to sleep, rest our sore limbs (and his drumstick-blistered hands) and for him to go out to bars (I became near-deliriously sick, something that likely had nothing to do with staring at a television for six hours straight), we played for about 14 total hours over two days, finishing at 10 p.m. Sunday evening.

Without winning.

The Iron Maiden song “Run for the Hills” proved to be our downfall. He was too fatigued to hit the rhythms and I was too tired of trying to think of ways to strategically drag our corpses through the song. We quit.

This is usually where I connect the funny story in the column to some larger idea about society and our culture (“Video games allowing us to make fantasy into reality”), make fun of a few pop-culture figures (“Speaking of warped reality, how ‘bout them Palins?”), and wrap things up nicely with a goofy line (“Come to think of it, I can see Russia from my video game!”)

But in all honesty, I’m tired. My wrists ache, my eyes are strained and I don’t know if I’m going to touch my Xbox for anything outside of Netflix for weeks.

I mostly just wanted to dedicate a bit of space to my friend, wish him luck in his future endeavors and make a few people chuckle in the process. (Cue “Aww” here.)

Good luck, Nick. See you and your keyboard for Rock Band 3.

Now I’m off to go ice my thumb. I hope the popping I hear when I move my wrists is just my imagination.

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