Monday, January 26, 2009

Meditations on music gaming

When I bought Rock Band 2 a few months ago, the purchase was my first foray into the world of music gaming. I borrowed DDR once and dabbled in Guitar Hero at parties here and there. But never experienced the games long enough to ponder the kind of entertainment they provide us. When faced with the Rock Band skeptics who ask "why don't you learn a real instrument," I've always argued that these games offer people the chance to feel like a rock star. Indeed, the game is best when played with the geekiest of friends who have choice songs and abundant enthusiasm performing them.

Yet lately, I've stopped practicing the game on my own. I think Shawn Elliot reflects my thoughts best in a recent blog post:

"As I once said on a podcast, I feel weird when I watch people play Rock Band or Guitar Hero. I'm reminded of how human music is and what it means for us to make it. I think, this is what happens when a culture decides that music-making is strictly the domain of the specialist and that we should stop performing when it becomes clear that we aren't cut from professional cloth."

I've heard this guy mention on a podcast that in the past everyone practiced some form of amateur music. Whether it be singing or some instrument. Interesting how society has changed. I wonder how well I could play now if had taken up an instrument in middle school.

A musician friend in Austin asked me how often I play Rock Band. I answered a few hours a week. He told me if I spent that much time learning a real guitar, I could pick it up.

I'm not saying I won't play Rock Band anymore. Just pondering the possibilities. I'm not quite at the point where I think I'm too good for it. Social get-togethers are the current justification for the time spent on it.

Anyone else having doubts about strumming away at plastic instruments?


Taylor said...

As the lead vocalist in BraceMonKey, I can tell you that your trying to kill the band. Of course, I don't mind singing and we all know that's one of the few things you can get out of Rock Band.

That being said, I think one of the elements of Rock Band is that it IS supposed to be a team game. Playing and practicing alone isn't going to be very fun -- why would it? The idea is to pick on others' synergy.

I think one thing to look at is, in recent years, the number of co-operative games that have picked up. DDR is usually played in VS -- there is no way to "play" with someone else and "save" them when they fail. The Wii really capitalizes on this, I think -- the best games are the ones that require so much interaction with others.

I think the real "attraction" behind Rock Band 2 especially, is the ability to play with others. The social interaction required in games now is opening the spectrum to more gamers and making things more fun to play. Just, hopefully, we won't all have to have 900 different peripherals in the future for what we play.

elfanumeric said...

Yea I agree with Taylor -

The genius of Rock Band is group play, but its that specific kind which is based on the Karaoke format.

When you get to hear just how bad someone sings compared to Kurt Cobain, or Rivers C., etc., its priceless.

But when everyone plays well together its a new kind of karaoke, unlike boy band harmonies, tis the glory of plastic axe, that you may spite the demon lord with unbound shredding.