Playing Rock Guitar For Zombies

28 Oct

I was playing the new version of Rocksmith (for the PC – got to take some time off sometime!) when I noticed something a bit odd.  There is an option for playing gigs which involves a point of view where you are looking out over an audience.  The audience are meant to be computer-generated humans, but the effect is more of playing in front of a horde of shambling zombies. Why? Well, I think it’s because of what is known as the ‘Uncanny Valley’.  This is where a technology manages to capture the human form well, but not quite well enough.  This results in avatars that look human, but in an eerie and unsettling way, and it’s something that crops up from time to time (the Tom Hank’s film Polar Express is a well known example of this.  In the case of the Rocksmith audience, this effect was enhanced by the fact that they all just stood there staring and slowly swaying back and forward, almost, but not quite, in unison. It was like they were humans but humans with no personality, no individuality, and, most importantly, no soul.

This got me wondering about what makes zombies so scary.  Is it their penchant for brains and soft, sweet, human flesh? That’s certainly part of it, but I think there also something else going on here. The rise of the zombies in modern life has occurred at the same time as technology has changed our lives beyond all recognition. They also tend to trend when we are least certain of where our world is going.  It used to be that we knew who we were because, whether we liked it or not, that was the life we were pretty much born into.  If your father worked in a shipyard, there was a pretty good chance that you would too, same with coal-mining, medicine, lawyers and so on. Basically, you knew where you stood (even if you weren’t necessarily too happy about it).

Now, when there are no longer any jobs for life, when technology keeps shifting the boundaries of what is possible and what we need to know, when we feel an ever-increasing pressure, from the media and from our peers, to be a success, to be famous, to be rich, do we fear zombies because of what they represent?  Zombies are humans that have lost all that makes them individuals, all that makes then unique, all that makes them them. Zombies are people who are powerless to do anything for themselves. Do we fear that modern life will overwhelm us and that we will simply be swallowed up by life to become one of the faceless masses with nothing that makes us stand out from the crowd, that makes us individuals? That we will, in effect, become like the soulless zombie-like humans in the audience of Rocksmith, just standing there, swaying back and forth in unison, each indistinguishable from the next. Maybe. Or maybe I’m over-thinking things here, and it’s just their craving for flesh and brains that makes then so scary after all (mmmmmmm, brains!).


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

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