In What Are You Playing This Weekend?, we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.
Laura Green once played the NES Power Glove and Power Pad in the chiptune-heavy pop band I Fight Dragons, but these days, Laura Green is back to the regular old keyboard as Lady Laura. She released her debut album, JEZEBEL, in 2012, and she’ll be following it up with one more, which she says will be her last, early next year. She’s also gearing up to be head bartender at Geek Bar, a nerd-themed brew-pub opening soon in Chicago. The Gameological Society spoke to Green about her love for food games and why she no longer uses Nintendo peripherals in her music.
The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?
Laura Green: If I have a chance, I’d really like to go to Emporium [a Chicago arcade bar] and play BurgerTime. And I hope when I go this time, the machine is fixed. That would be awesome.
Growing up, we had the NES, and there was a video store closing across the street from where we lived. My brother and sister and I had saved up for the NES with our allowance, and when we got it, we were absolutely thrilled. It was mostly up to us to buy the games though. The video store was closing, and we bought all these games for 99 cents. So I bought stuff like BurgerTime and Panic Kitchen. I don’t know why I picked chef stuff or games involving food. I guess I just love food.
Gameological: That’s interesting because you aren’t old enough to have lived during the Atari generation. Was it strange to go back and play these more primitive games?
Green: Not at all. BurgerTime is awesome, though it’s not an easy game. If I get to level three, I consider it a win. That usually puts me in the top score on the cabinet at Emporium. I’ve only gotten to the fourth level once when I was in Portland and kind of shitfaced. But yeah, it comes from an era of games that were wildly challenging—the puzzle-solving, sweat-dripping, “Oh fuck, oh fuck, an egg is coming for me now” thing. Mr. Chef Peter Pepper was moving around, and the food creatures would adapt to where you were, and that was cool. It wasn’t like Donkey Kong where you could memorize when the barrels were going over.
Gameological: So you had an NES as a kid. Is that when you first developed your love for the Power Glove and Power Pad?
Green: We inherited our Power Pad from our cousins. That Glove was expensive, and we had to pay for our own stuff, so I couldn’t really afford it. Maybe we were too young to be influenced by the “I love the Power Glove—it’s so bad” mentality, or maybe we just saw it as something that was already unattainable. But I always knew what it was, and I coveted it.
Gameological: How did you get from someone who “coveted” the Power Glove to playing it in I Fight Dragons?
Green: I started as a keyboard player, before Bill Prokopow was in the band. He was just a consulting producer at that point. We had one rehearsal where I was sitting at a keyboard playing the chiptune part of “Money” on a keyboard, and Bill took over keys at the control station. Brian [Mazzaferri, lead singer] had this idea to use NES controllers. We all looked at him like, “Shut up!,” and I was like, “This band is not going to last.” But then during the next practice, he brought it and it was working. It didn’t come without its kinks. It was a process for me to move from a musician to more of a gamer because we put these melody lines into the buttons, and it became more like inputting game codes than actually playing music.
Gameological: You had to memorize button sequences like the Konami Code to play a song?
Green: Absolutely. So when I went back to play my own music and sat down at a keyboard it was like, how the fuck do I do this again? It was definitely a brain switch. I remember saying that I’d lost all my musicianship being in this band. It’s not entirely true, but kind of.
Gameological: But you opted not to be a Power Glove solo artist after you left the band?
Green: I thought about it. Well, I thought about incorporating some of it into my Lady Laura stuff. Some electronic element. But I realized I was really burnt out on the whole IFD thing and all the shitstorm that surrounded it. It wasn’t quite what I wanted anymore. I wanted to be self-reliant on these two hands and whatever real instrument I was playing and not anything else. So I abandoned the Power Glove, and I don’t even have one anymore. There’s a guy in Arizona, Matt something, he’s an astrophysicist who designed a Bluetooth-controlled Power Glove for me so I could run around the stage cordless—wherever I wanted and play wirelessly. I had found him on YouTube and was like “Yo, can I play music with this?” I made it rain on him with all the monies, but then I got kicked out of the band! [Laughs.] He still has it.
I don’t know what IFD has discussed since I left the band, but a few years ago I remember talking and saying that we were eventually going to have to evolve out of the NES stuff. We were playing in front of all these teenagers who thought I had an Ove’ Glove on my hand. They thought I was jumping around doing nothing, and I’m like “No, these things did exist.”
Gameological: They thought you were faking playing the Power Glove?
Green: All the time, but I’m like if you go back and listen, you can hear all the times I fucked up or we had a glitch. You can tell I wasn’t faking. But these kids couldn’t identify with it, so we talked about doing an LED light sensor or different things.
Gameological: Did you ever have a glitch during a live show and go back and have to blow into the NES?
Green: I wish it was that simple.
And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.