If you were to examine the music I am listening to this time of year, you would notice the name Lana Del Rey starring. And if you were to check which of Del Rey's songs I listen to the most, including through various remixes, then this is the song you would come up with - Video Games:
It's hard for me to account for all the things that make this song work on me as well as it does, but I will give it a try. First there is the voice: I'm a sucker for the female vocalist, but this one's lower tones (with the intentional squeak dropped in) is pure magic. Then there is the carefully calculated orchestral accompaniment - every time that harp goes something goes inside me. The result? Video games doesn't only get to me in my head, it gets to me physically - I can feel my heart missing a beat and my body shivering. Rarely does music have such an effect on people.
As an audiophile, Video Games provides me with plenty to think of. Listening to the song on Spotify at 320 kbps through my iPhone 5 and my Grado headphones, Del Rey's crescendos are alarmingly distorted. Clearly, the iPhone - which is otherwise one of the better portable listening devices out there - lacks the power to drive my headphones. Even when I listen on my hi-fi I can notice the slightest bit of distortion, the type that comes when the amplifier is overstretched. Outside of the opera world it is rare to find a voice that stretches my stereo as badly.
Then there are the lyrics.
On the face of it, Video Games is a song I should like by virtue of it invoking one of my favorite pastimes. Check my recent posts and you will see how much video games mean to me. Then there's those soul melting gems such as "heaven is a place on earth with you". However, listen to Del Rey's lyrics properly and you will see a different picture.
The image Video Games creates is one of a content couple that, despite professed attractions, has the male character ignore the female one. He prefers his fast car and, obviously, his video games; she, on the other hand, does not seem to truly know her man. This is not your ideal happy family.
The problem is that the song reminds me too much of myself. It is dead easy for me to sink into my video games; I won't even mention the time I otherwise spend on the Internet. Clearly, there is a lot of escapism in these activities of mine. In my mind, this happens for reasons clear as mud: being a space commander saving the galaxy is probably the only method at my disposal to add gloss to an otherwise ordinary life of a mortgaged guy spending most of his wakeful time in a generally boring job. Something has to give; some people go for sports, others drink, but for me video games are one of the easiest and most rewarding channels to direct this frustration through.
I am obviously one of many. In a world that is growing more and more specialized with growing levels of automation it is also clear this is a problem that is only going to grow worse in both quantity and severity. I clearly see an escalation on the other side, too: the video games of today will grow so sophisticated and so indistinguishable from reality people would prefer them over real life. Would you be able to blame them if, say, in one they are poor and unemployed but on the other they're the hot shot that gets the sexiest girl (I'm succumbing to Hollywood stereotypes here) they can imagine?
The way I see it, the real problem here is not video games. The problem is a world that is growingly indifferent to the needs of people, a world that is profit oriented rather than human oriented.
I will stop here for my dose of Video Games.