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January 29, 2008Glenn Turner

I was sitting in a local pub, sipping a Dogfish Head Ale while waiting for my take-out dinner order (a buffalo chicken sandwich – I was feeling spicy after a mildly successful bowling league night) when, all of the sudden, one of the waiters sidled up to me and said:

"So, did you get Dance Dance Revolution for Christmas?"

My eyes dialed in on his features and registered a faint signal of recognition. "Excuse me?"

"Did you get Dance Dance Revolution for Christmas?"

His face and my memory finally aligned: it was one of our downstairs neighbors, who apparently was employed by this very pub. My cheeks flushed, and I chuckled it off. "Hah, nope. Rock Band, actually. I'm sorry – I hope it hasn't been a problem – I've tried to only play it during 'decent' hours. It hasn't been bothering y'all, has it?"

"No, no," he tersely responded before swiftly changing the topic to the Palahniuk novel I was reading. However, while he was describing his affinity for Imaginary Monsters, all I could focus on was my embarrassment and guilt over being called out on my Rock Band-generated noise, the fear that every off-beat thud of my kick pedal was echoed to those living under me, the annoyance they must feel having to hear every pseudo-cymbal crash and each ill-timed drum roll.

This was definitely a problem.

Sadly, we knew it'd be problem. Way before Rock Band was a glimmer in Harmonix's eyes, we knew something like this would grow to be an issue. When my better half and I went scavenging for apartments several years ago, we intentionally searched for basement or 1st floor apartments. At the time, I was a daily Dance Dance Revolution home player and we thought it'd be better for all parties involved if we had no one living under us, no one to deal with the occasional pitter-patter (and thudder-thadder) of my indelicate motions.

Sadly, that didn't quite pan out, and we ended up moving into the second floor of a two-flat. During the first few months I only pulled out DDR and the dance mat in the thick of the afternoon. Certainly no one could object to that. As time passed, my dance pad wore out, I lost interest, and I'm sure my neighbors were relieved to no longer endure the trauma of hearing a grown man bounce in metered time.

While many rhythm games have come and gone over the last two years, none have demanded much from our floorboards until Rock Band came along. While the vocals and guitar are relatively benign to those under us, I had hoped the same for the drum kit. I had hoped that my fervent kick-pedal action and hard snare hits were muted thanks to the kit's plastic design and the flat's sturdy construction. Nonetheless, I swore never to play the drums too early, or too late. No earlier than 11am, and 11pm was the cut-off time (our neighbors keep odd, late-night hours). No matter how close the missus and I were to closing out a city setlist or how enthralled I was with a track, I refused to allow myself to drum any later.

That's not to say that I didn't occasionally bend the rules. Like once when we had some friends over to revel in the glory that is multiplayer Rock Band bonding. Our neighbors had thrown an especially loud, especially smoke-filled Sunday night/Monday morning party the week prior so this time I said 'screw it, let them hear our noise until midnight for once'. And occasionally I let myself willfully drum off a few more excuses, times where I'd keep going well past 11pm, usually at the encouragement of Capt. Morgan or Mr. Daniels. Those sessions would usually end poorly.

And now I had to reap what I had sown. Yes, I had to acknowledge that I'm inadvertently making a hell of a lot of noise with a video game. Enough so that it was one of the first things from my neighbor's mouth, despite the fact that I haven't seen him face-to-face in several months. Am I the problem? Is the game the problem? Is he just being over-sensitive?

I fear these are problems that'll be associated with gamers more and more as time goes on and as movement-based gaming peripherals become more common. In fact, the night prior, we were talking to some friends and they were telling us how they had thought that their new neighbors looked to be quiet, above-the-board folks. That image was quite tarnished when they woke them up "playing Dance Dance Revolution" at 4am.

I don't know for sure whether their neighbors were actually playing Dance Dance Revolution, but I fear that it's become code for 'those damn neighbors are doing something private, something fucking loud, and I wish they'd stop.' And even if DDR hasn't become popular parlance for such a thing, I'm practically positive that's what what my pub-employed neighbor intended to impart on me. While I've certainly had qualms with my neighbors' noise levels in the past, even I have to admit that 20+ hours of Rock Band within a span of a few weeks might be worth a few admonishing words. But how else can I get in my sweet, sweet drum lessons?

Ultimately, despite my guilt-ravaged mind, despite the sound-muffling ideas my girlfriend and I tossed around while heading home, I still ended up booting up Rock Band and drumming my guts out until approximately 10:30pm. I'd like to believe that's not unreasonable, even though my intentions were to play it no later than 10pm. But see, I forgot that I had yet to tackle Fall Out Boy in Hard mode. And I needed to cleanse my palette with something difficult yet mindless, like a tasty duo of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Metallica.

Insensitive? Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. But there are games to be played and little time to play them in. This situation underscores the need to bear my neighbors in mind, to try to be a bit more aware of my own noise. Maybe I'll try to muffle the sound a bit more, maybe put down some rugs. And maybe 11pm is a bit too late. But I can't let my fear of offending them utterly prevent me from enjoying my own diversions – there has to be some wiggle room.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's 1:00am. I have a guitar-based solo tour to attend to.

2 comments for ‘Neighborly Concern’

#1 Fiddytree Jan 30, 2008 09:10pm

I think it's really funny that you brought this up cause I just had this come to my attention about a week ago. I live on the third floor of my dorm building and I had some kid from the 2nd floor talking to me and he mentioned how he hated that the people living above him have rock band. Of course I thought it was me, but it turned out he lives under the girls wing. Now if they were being loud, I can only imagine how bad it must be considering how often I have 4 people in here, normally someone is jumping or rocking out too hard, and I tend to play a little bit more aggresively than you're probably supposed to. Of course at school, you might go to sleep at 10 PM one day and go to bed at 6 AM the next, and you might wake up at 8AM one day and 4PM the next. There is no way of telling so I just sorta play whenever it is I want to but I've been playing less lately anyway

#2 R. LeFeuvre Feb 15, 2008 08:36pm

I love the fact that my living room is above our garages... no one down there! I used to play Rock Band (also on drums) at any time... and I keep odd hours so there has certainly been 3am jam sessions with my roomie.

I'm not shy with the drumming either... and I've already broke one kick pedal :(