Typically we love The Onion's sly manipulation of journalistic protocol. Like when instead of interviewing real actual sources who are typically unfunny, they photoshop George W. Bush so he appears to be standing in the oval office hoisting a large anaconda and grinning. However we were both flattered and dismayed when the concept for their recent Sousaphone Hero story appeared to be cribbed right from the pages of our March '07 issue. Thanks and damn you, Onion! Love, Paste.
DEAR RED OCTANE,
My name is Elbert Lagerfeld, and I serve as the Senior VP of Interactive Entertainment Marketing Solutions for a reputable firm here in Corvallis, Mont. We keep an eye on the video-game industry’s hottest new trends and brainstorm creative ways to draw a bit of extra sizzle from them. A sales associate at Best Buy recently turned me on to your wildly popular Guitar Hero II and now I find it popping up everywhere. Just this afternoon I heard a comedian on some VH1 list special call the game “so totally sex!” and, though I’ve never heard “sex” used as an adjective, I’m pretty sure I agree 100 percent.
The game’s track selection is impeccable: Mötley Crüe (spandex-clad Satanism!), Rush (anarchic time signatures!) and G N’ R (a child who is sweet!), to name just a few of my personal faves. Plus, I honestly feel like a guitar virtuoso when I wield the miniature plastic Gibson SG controller and mash its color-coded “fret buttons” in time with the relentlessly encroaching dots on screen. This game might be more addictive than Tetris.
So you’ve got a great game. Well, buy yourself a sandwich! You can’t stop there. Let me hit you with some ideas right off the top of my head. I’m talking brand extension here, people. I’m talking a whole line of games. Ready? Here goes:
1. Sitar Hero: I know, I know, this one’s kind of a no-brainer—I figured I’d start with low-hanging fruit. For starters, the word “sitar” is phonetically similar to “guitar” and I’m pretty sure you play it while sitting Indian-style. One thing kids don’t like is exercise and Guitar Hero involves standing, which—to most hardcore gamers—has exercise written all over it. Plus, the metal plectrum you use to pick a sitar is called a mezrab, which sounds like the name of a Norwegian black-metal band. Guitar Hero fans adore Norwegian black metal and will be anxious to get their hands on this one.
2. Sousaphone Hero: Kiss the stereotype of the pimply-faced, overweight sousaphone player goodbye! The instrument is now considered a symbol of virility, and—let’s face it—it’s incredibly hot in marching-band circles. The instrument’s metal is literally heavy, so just being able to march around the football field with it resting on your shoulder is a feat of strength. Granted, the plastic sousaphone controller will weigh less than two pounds, but remember: perception is reality.
Gameplay-wise, what if every time you play a set of 10 notes in a row mistake-free, your character’s sousaphone bell gets a bit larger? (Idea for unlockable character: Oom Papa.) If you manage to hit 50 notes in a row without a mistake, the bell sucks the entire crowd into it and, moments later, spits their half-digested entrails back into the bleachers—this will be worth the “M” rating, trust me. We could also sell the game in fancier packaging, add $14.99 to the price tag and label it the X-Treme “Halftime Is Go Time!” Edition.
(Note: in our marketing materials, we leverage the fact that Marilyn Manson played sousaphone his freshman year of high school. I read it on someone’s blog and verified it against a news website called The Onion. Could lend us some cred with our scary-contact-lens-wearing demographic.)
3. Keytar Hero: The band Devo was conspicuously absent from both Guitar Hero releases—as were pioneering musical acts like Thomas Dolby, John Tesh and Croatian sexpot Belinda Bedekovic. Keytar Hero will remedy those sinister oversights and restore balance to the force. There’s nothing wrong with pianists resenting guitarists for having a cooler, more phallic instrument. After all, the word “pianist” doesn’t sound phallic enough. I’m just being facetious; it sounds
totally phallic! Regardless, the keytar is a national treasure and our game will cement its legendary status.
4. Air-Guitar Hero: We simply repackage the original games by themselves in a large, mostly empty box and charge people an extra $29.95 for a limited-edition air guitar. Lower manufacturing cost = solid profit potential. At first people will think it’s a scam but then they’ll realize that hello it’s limited edition.
5. Triangle Hero: We’d be out of our minds if we didn’t have a spin-off that catered to preschool gamers. The triangle is one of those elegantly simple instruments that’s never gone out of style. One day Lil’ Timmy will get the bridge of his nose pierced and pledge what’s left of his soul to heavy metal, but for now let’s give him a small length of bent metal (or, in this case, plastic) and teach him to sit quietly through a 14-minute Bach concerto, waiting patiently to strike his one chiming note toward the end of the piece. Parents will love it because the game dovetails perfectly with their child’s classroom unit on shapes. And young kids will love it because it lights up and makes obnoxious giggling noises when you chew on it!
Please contact me immediately so we can implement these ideas and go over others I didn’t have room to include in this missive.
Playing for keeps,