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Singing Gamer - Rebecca

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I sat down with Beefjack and answered their probing questions...

1.) Hi Rebecca, thanks for taking the time out to talk with BeefJack. In your new show on Game People, you're looking back on your experiences of the last four years through the lens of individual songs. Is it difficult to take in everything that's happened to you and your career since you first melded music and video gaming?

It's been a totally unexpected journey. I couldn't have planned everything that unfolded from the original idea. I was so immersed in what I was doing, it all made total sense to me, and then someone would come along and ask me why I was dressed as a transformer playing a drum with a broccoli. At moments like that I'd stop and wonder how on earth I'd gotten to this point. At parties when people ask 'so what do you do?' sometimes I'd launch into the whole story and other times I'd say 'I work with computers', no one ever asks much more beyond that I discovered, but people certainly ask more when you say 'I write reviews of videogames in song form.' That's the rest of my night gone, right there.

2.) As well as the songs themselves, you're going to be discussing peoples' reactions to them. Are there any particular responses from the gaming enthusiast audience that stand out in your memory, for good or bad reasons?

At the beginning I had a lot of confused and bemused reactions. People couldn't understand what it was, whether I was trying to be funny or serious or arty or what. I really liked bringing that edge, doing something totally new that people didn't know how to box. A lot of the time I was taking the mick out of the game and out of gamers and some people really didn't like that. Other times I was taking the mick out of myself and, if for no one else, I enjoyed it. I had a couple of strong attacks from girl gamers who thought I was giving girl gamers a bad name, mainly because the messages of my songs were quite soft and anti-violence, lets all sing a song and stop shooting each other kind of thing. Whether or not it's because I'm a girl, I was intentionally questioning violence in games, unashamedly.

3.) A number of your review songs approach a game with a purposefully naive tone that's markedly different to anything found elsewhere in mainstream video game criticism. Do you think there's scope for a wider range of approaches to video game reviews in the written press beyond the "buyers guide" template?

Absolutely. That's what we were hoping to explore with this project. Any industry can become very insular in its understanding of itself and bringing in new ways of looking at something from a totally unusual perspective can cause all sorts of creative explosions in the brain. I think a range of reviews would bring much more perspective to gaming beyond the consumer/entertainment angle. There are so many people for whom gaming has become a way of life and looking at how each individual game informs life is a crucial part of reviewing it.

4.) Your songs "The Mirror" and "Velvet Assassin" touch on the objectification of women in video gaming, and it remains an ever-present issue in mainstream music as well. Is it something that has affected you personally in your career, and do you feel that video game criticism calls out developers on this enough?

The objectification of women runs deep within culture and is evident everywhere, including video gaming and the music industry. I continue to feel astounded by the blatentness with which it's present in videogaming. Yes I think there could be a lot more criticism of developers and their pandering to what sells. Ultimately it's a symptom of a much larger problem. Societally we're still finding our way from a male-dominated presentation of women in culture to a female-based understanding of womanhood. I'm excited about what will unfold once women start to present their true selves, whether it sells or not. As a musician I've turned down a lot of opportunities in order to maintain control of my career, the music industry as we know it lacks any female leadership, and I'm much more inspired by carving out my own unique way with it rather than being packaged as a of singing doll.

5.) Do you have a set approach to your songwriting, or is it a more organic, spontaneous process? Have you ever had a "Yesterday" moment where a song/review just popped out fully formed?

Yes, absolutely, quite a few pop out fully formed, it's always wonderful when that happens, it's like discovering something that already exists, rather than creating something new. A lot of the song-reviews though I did have to craft to get all the elements to work. I'd generally start by writing down lots of ideas and thoughts inspired by the game. Titles, characters, dialogue, settings all fueled my imagination and I'd try and weave as much of it together as possible. Sometimes I'd have a very clear idea or angle, other times it was just a mish mash. I'd write the lyrics and the music together most of the time, although for some, like The Mirror I had a lot of the lyrics written before I found the right melody for it.

6.) Finally, do you have a personal favourite amongst your video gaming songs? And why?

That's like saying which of your children is your favourite, not that I have children, but I can imagine that would be a pretty unethical thing to start talking about. Having said that I definitely prefer some over others. If I had to plump for one I'd say that Velvet Assassin was a special song to me because it felt like the first one where I really shared something close to my heart and let myself be felt in that. It was a risk in the sense that I felt some kind of vulnerability and exposure in putting it out there, and yet really that's all I want to do; be real.

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Rebecca Mayes writes the Rebecca Mayes column.

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