Oh dear god my eyes were burning at Distant Worlds

logo.jpgI am a complete and total nerd and there are times I am ashamed of this.

Of course, I wasn’t completely ashamed enough that I wasn’t totally willing to shell out money for Saturday’s great Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy concert at the Jones Hall. Final Fantasy games have been a bit hit or miss for me – games earlier than the fourth don’t get much attention (and with good reason as the remake of FFIII is horrendous) and I think the eighth has one of the weakest stories out of the entire series. But the one thing every game has had going for it is the music.

The opportunity to hear 8-bit, 16-bit, and more modern soundtracks being played with an orchestra as talented as the Houston Symphony sounded great. I even dragged along my less-than-excited girlfriend Rachel for the ride and she ended up enjoying the music and performances, though not for the same reasons I did obviously.

What I really want to talk about though is everything else. The performance was great, the videos they showed were good (we’ll get to that), but there is something that always inherently bothers me any time I attend some of nerd-centric events in a major city like this.

Nerds themselves.

I mean it. If there is one thing that is absolutely insufferable in this world, it’s people whose only frame of reference is whatever pop culture icon, genre, or hobby they partake in and I’m not saying everyone in the audience at Distant Worlds was like this. Quite the contrary – there were a ton of people at the event who were well-adjusted and socially competent human beings.

The ones I sat next to and around, however, were not.

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Dear Febreze, deliver us from evil.

Let me clarify – there is nothing wrong with people who are socially awkward or may have anxiety with crowds or being around new people. I understand the litany of reasons of why some of the people with these issues find solace in some of the nerdier hobbies out here. I’ve known plenty of people like this, but there is one difference between the ones I have known and those that surrounded my girlfriend and I at Distant Worlds.

The ones I know all had the ability and self-awareness to maintain even the most rudimentary levels of hygiene.

We all know the stereotype of the utterly sedentary gamer who spends more time raising their MMR in Dota or trying to get a higher rank in CS:GO (or trying to swindle other nerds out of cash by betting on skins), subsisting on Doritos and Mountain Dew and failing at all things related to being a responsible adult, particularly hygiene. Fortunately it’s a stereotype that has slowly begun to wither away as the industry itself became more and more “mainstream” throughout the 2000s into today. In any group of enthusiasts, you will always come across a handful of people that fit a bad idea of what one would expect from the more “hardcore” side of the hobby.

The cloud of BO that hovered over us during Saturday’s performance was nauseating on a level that I simply wasn’t prepared for in a public space. I’d imagine that after the evening performance, a Hazmat team had to enter Jones Hall and systematically decontaminate the premises to avoid some sort of citation from the health department. Alternatively, just set the concert hall on fire and build it from the ground up again.

To make matters worse, I had to ask the person sitting next to me to stop humming along with the orchestra loudly twice. Look, we’re all here for the same reasons. We know the games, we know the music (mostly), no one will be impressed that you happened to know a theme song at a video game concert. We all know them. Please shut up.

I think what was more frustrating than anything was when I asked if they were, in fact, humming as I didn’t want to be wrong, the person not only admitted it but said it in such a flippant way they appeared to be proud of the fact that they humming along and others could hear them.

I don’t have the expectation that a crowd at any show or performance I see is going to be the most respectful, but anecdotally I can say I’ve never been to a concert and had to ask anyone to do something like this. Not sure if that makes me lucky or what, because I do know this was the first video game music performance-type event I’ve ever been to and it was a whole different beast compared to other concerts/festivals I’ve been to in terms of the smell.

Needless to say I was happy to get out of there and get some fresh air, or about as fresh as air in downtown Houston can get anyway.

Regardless, I was very happy with Saturday’s performance. Of note, the show marked the debut of the series’ Battle Medley, which played a series of battle themes throughout each game. Hearing the boss theme from FFIV was a great experience as was the general battle theme from FFVII which has been forever burned into my brain.

As much as I didn’t enjoy FF8, Balamb Garden was also fantastic.

The encore performance was worth the price of admission – as many guessed, they played fan favorite One Winged Angel from FFVII but again I felt disappointed that, instead of footage from the final battle against Sephiroth they opted to show footage from Advent Children. Personally, I found AC to be an overly convoluted, boring, poorly directed mess of a move that really added nothing and stands as a poorly made epilogue to a game that really didn’t need anything expansive as a follow up and certainly nothing that incomprehensible. (I think I might be in the minority when it comes to liking the somewhat minimalist ending to VII.)

Another strange thing was all of the footage that was shown came from the Japanese versions of the games. I found it odd, as other video game performances like the Legend of Zelda’s Symphony of the Goddesses used footage from the English translated games. Hope non-fans in the audience weren’t expecting to actually get a sense of what they were watching because they were pretty much SOL unfortunately.

It was also a shame that no one sang along with the Chocobo song after conductor Arnie Roth encouraged the audience to do. I know that makes me a bit of a hypocrite as I didn’t shout out the letters to Chocobo, but I’d imagine in a different crowd it might have been fun.

I was a little sad Nobuo Uematsu wasn’t in attendance but he obviously can’t make it to every performance. I can’t help but feel a little selfish in my disappointment.

Also on sale were shirts, bags, CDs, and other merchandise but I had my fill of nerd cred for the day. Also the shame usually prevents me from buying such things, minus my Doom shirt. Everyone should own a Doom shirt. Doom shirts transcend being nerd attire.

It was a great show with no major issues to speak of but I would love to enjoy such a performance without having to hold my nose but I guess given the sort of crowd that attends these events, perhaps I’ll just have to grin and bear it, particularly when the Symphony of the Goddesses rolls around in a few months.

Dear nerds, please shower, thanks in advance.

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