A few nights ago I was introduced to the gaming phenomenon known as "Guitar Hero" through it's recently released offspring, "Rock Band". For those of you who don't know (and I'm sure most of you do since I'm kinda late on the bus), these games follow the system of a "dance dance revolution" type experience where you must match up your movements (Hitting a series of 6 buttons and "strumming" the guitar controller) with a patterned grouping of color buttons in the rhythm/timing of how they are displayed. In "Rock Band" you not only have a guitar controller, but also an electronic drum controller setup, as well as bass and a mic which actually can tell if you are off pitch or not. Once you have everyone on their instruments you are ready to rock through a series of songs including "In Bloom" by Nirvana, "Say it ain't so" by Weezer, and "Should I stay or should I go" by The Clash.
To quote a phrase by uttered by "Stan" last month on SOUTH PARK...
"Real guitars are for old people."
As we played (here comes the old man), I found myself wondering how many people would actually be interested in starting a real band after their "Rock Band" experience, and how many hours logged on this game could have translated into an actual gaining of real guitar skills. I assume some as you would gain some finger dexterity, rhythmic skills, and you would get better playing in time since you perform to the equivalent of a metronome. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's a waste of time because I loved it too, and I think it's probably more healthy considering it's "just for fun" and probably wouldn't turn someone in a head case like most of us musicians are.
Even cooler is where you get the "band practice" experience through the Xbox live service by logging in from separate homes for a full concert. Somewhere in America this conversation is happening..."Dude, Mike didn't show up for the gig tonight. I really need to know how serious he's taking this project. I want to take this all the way to level 99 and I don't know if he's in it for the long hall. Does a band talk work for you tomorrow night after I finish all the chores my mom gave me?"
Ahhhhhh...band drama, even in a virtual world it manages to find it's way in...
All in all after playing it for a few hours I actually found it pretty hard and VERY fun. The way the programmers mixed the songs so that the guitar tones are HUGE really made it feel like you were playing through a big amp. I had so much fun in fact, that I told myself I couldn't get it do the fact I might lose my job by forgetting to write real songs and instead focusing on getting a "230-Note Streak" on the guitar solo to Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive".
THAT WOULD NOT BE GOOD.
Might make a good story though. :)
See you in 2008!