Nathan Brown finds yet another excuse to write about music
Industry issues given the widescreen treatment
Delighted as I was to learn that Bloodborne had sold a million copies within a couple of weeks of release, I was also a little worried. It felt a bit weird seeing such a big marketing campaign around a game which, to put it mildly, isn’t exactly for everyone. Bloodborne is no triple-A blockbuster, no scripted, press-X-to-murder rollercoaster. That’s precisely what makes it so special, of course, but it is a game that has to be learnt before it can be loved and, these days, there’s not so much of an appetite for that sort of thing. I worry that Bloodborne may turn from one of PS4’s fastest-selling games into its most quickly traded in.
It got me thinking, like most things do, about music. In a few pages’ time you’ll read about Guitar Hero Live, which will arrive with a 24-hour rolling music video channel that you can leave running in the background like MTV (is MTV still a thing?), or sit down in front of and play along to. It’s been built specifically to mirror the way we listen to music these days. It is temporary and transient and snackish, requiring nothing but your occasional attention: you discover, you consume, and you move on to the next thing, perhaps clicking a ‘like’ button or adding something to a playlist if you’re feeling particularly frisky.
Pull any record out of my collection and I can tell you where I bought it and when, what it sounds like, and which track on which side you ought to play. (Seriously, please do that – it’s my favourite thing.) Meanwhile, my Spotify playlists contain hundreds of songs I couldn’t even name. We just don’t engage with media in the way we used to.
Scheduled TV, the cinema, the album market, dare I say it, the printed magazine; the stomping ground of dinosaurs, too old and too slow to keep up with the breakneck pace of modern life, where nothing is permanent and every new thing is only of use until the next thing comes along. Reach the end of a story on a website and you’ll be presented with a dozen other things to read next. Finish a film on Netflix – most of which you probably missed because you were looking at cat GIFs on your phone – and the recommendation engine kicks in the second the credits start to roll, suggesting what to watch next. On no account must you stop, take a breath and think about what you’ve just read, heard or seen.
Or, indeed, played. We play and we delete or trade in, moving on to the next big Friday release, App Store favourite or Steam sale purchase (only kidding: as if we ever get round to playing those). This gets right to the heart of what makes Bloodborne, and the
Souls games before it, so special. It is all in or nothing. Many will bounce off it, but regardless of how many of the million-plus people who ponied up their £50 for a game one weekend then traded it in the next, its success still gives me hope. It may prove to game publishers that players aren’t complete cretins who will fail to progress beyond the title screen unless you hold their hands every step of the way. It might help retailers realise that there’s revenue potential beyond the obvious annual blockbuster. Above all, I hope it will show a new audience the merits of falling deeply into something brilliant to the exclusion of everything else. If what’s in front of you is amazing, why worry about what’s coming next?
We are all eager to revere the relics of the past. A copy of the NME landed on my desk the other day. Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love stared out from the cover and I was briefly, vividly reminded of one of the last NMEs I bought, back when it was still a newspaper, the cover a close, black-andwhite crop of Cobain’s face, marking his passing. The other day marked 30 years since the launch of Zzap!64; I never read it because I had a ZX Spectrum and people with C64s were the worst, but it sure got me thinking about my Your Sinclair subscription. Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet is 25 years old, too (the Bath branch of Our Price – now a Tie Rack – on launch day; side two, track four, Can’t Do Nuttin’ For Ya Man).
I hope we all learn to – or remember how to – slow down and connect with things. Looking around, I see heartening signs of a desire to make the temporary a little more permanent. Vinyl sales are up. Websites are making print magazines. And Bloodborne has sold a million copies. I hope this is the beginning of a trend, but if not, no matter. I’ll be here, with my records, my mags and my memories. Sat with the rest of the dinosaurs, waiting happily for the meteor to hit.
On no account must you stop, take a breath and think about what you’ve just read, heard or seen. Or, indeed, played