Saturday, September 20, 2008

I am a musician

I mentioned in another entry that I recently bought a Playstation 3. Mainly, I was looking to get a Blu-Ray player, as there are a lot of movies coming out in the next few months that I'd like to get in the best format possible.

I already have about six or seven pre-ordered via First one up - the Sex and the City movie. It's mainly for Kirsti, who is a huge fan of the show, but I went and saw the movie with her and I enjoyed it. I don't think that I liked it enough to buy it for myself, but I'll probably watch it again with her. Mainly the ones that I'm looking forward to are Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight and some comic book/action movies.)

Anyway, the reason why I didn't just get a Blu-Ray player is because a PS3 costs about the same amount (and it has a Blu-Ray player, in case you didn't know) and both Kirsti and I had a lot of fun playing the game Rock Band at various friends' houses. So, when I picked up the PS3, I also picked up Rock Band, and last week I went and got Guitar Hero III.

There seems to be a bit of controversy over the game Rock Band, at least amongst my group of friends. For those of you who don't know what it is, it's basically a video game that allows you to create your own rock band. Instead of standard video game controllers, you use a guitar-shaped controller. There is also a drum-kit, which is probably more like the actual drums than the guitar is like an actual guitar. Lastly, there's a microphone, where you can sing along with the songs. While playing the game, a series of lights flash across the screen, and you have to hit the right buttons and strum on the guitar to the music. The drums are similar, as corresponding lights match up with the drums. If you're singing, you have to stick with the correct pitch and sing along precisely or else you start to lose.

If my description sucks, check out this video of some people playing:

It's a lot of fun, but the controversy seems to stem around the notion that you're not really playing any instruments. People who actually play the guitar say that it's completely different from the real thing. (In fact, Slash, who contributed to Guitar Hero III, said in an interview that if he had never actually played the guitar before, the game would probably come a lot easier to him.) Apparently, some people are afraid that kids will like the game so much and have a deluded notion about what being in a band really is - and thusly there will be fewer kids playing actual instruments.

Personally, I think that anybody with that attitude is simply being a luddite. Here's why games Rock Band and Guitar Hero are a good thing:

1. If anything, it will get more kids into playing the real thing. Nobody who would really want to play an instrument is going to be content with a game like this. After all, you can't compose your own songs and you can't play it differently than the recording. I'm 34 - if I haven't picked up an instrument by now, then I probably never will. For me, the game is fantasy in the same way as when I play my superhero game. Playing Rock Band doesn't make me any less likely to learn an instrument than Marvel Ultimate Alliance makes me less likely to put on a costume to fight crime.

Still, I can really see a lot of kids getting into the idea of playing the real thing after getting into the game. I wonder how many parents who bought the game for their kids are now heading to the music store to buy a real guitar or drum set? I bet there are at least a few.

2. It's more active than most video games. While it certainly isn't an exercise game, you definitely get a bit of a workout when you play the drums. As for the guitar, I like to stand up and move around while I play. I doubt that I'm burning the same amount of calories as a marathon runner, but I definitely burn more than I am right now sitting at the keyboard.

3. This one is more of a personal reason, but it's a game that I can play with my wife. Too often we're in separate rooms of the house, but with this one we're having fun together. She's also getting pretty good at the drums, and even though she doesn't get to play as often as I do, I'm pretty sure that she's ready to move from the Easy to the Medium difficulty level.

4. It exposes kids to music. A nice change that I've been noticing over the past couple of years is that a lot more kids seem to be familiar with music that came out more than two years ago. For most teenagers, their sense of musical history is extremely limited. These games introduce them to a lot of classic rock. Now all they have to do is come out with a game called Jazz Band and then we can really get some musical appreciation going on.

5. The potential for newer versions is promising. Supposedly with the new Guitar Hero game coming out, players will be able to compose their own songs. I imagine that the range of what you can do will be pretty limited, but there's no doubt that this sort of a thing would inspire a lot of kids to pick up some real instruments. After all, you might be able to create a cool song with the game, but you can't go out on a street corner and play it, can you?

6. It's a lot of fun. To me, that's the bottom line. When I want to unwind after work, it's a good way to get my mind off of things. It combines both game play and music. What can be better?


Kaboom32 said...

What can be better? Bolton Band.

nonmagic said...

I'm not a gamer, but the husband is. He has a PS...2? that I bought him a long time ago. I've never messed with it.

Do you remember Sega? I used to be completely addicted to Sega games. I mean, I spent so many hours in college playing Sega that I would skip class if I was in the middle of a game.

Since then the only games I've played are the little flash games you can get offline.

We stay separated in different parts of the apartment, too. He's always watching movies or gaming and I'm reading, working out or online.

You guys might enjoy a movie I got from Netflix recently called The Live is Others. We watched that the other night.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I remember Sega, but I never owned a gaming console until now. That's right, my mom never bought me an Atari. (In all honesty though, even though I thought that she was being unreasonably cruel, I'm kinda glad that she didn't now that I look back on it all.)

Anonymous said...

Well, you'll be happy to hear about Guitar Rising, which is like Guitar Hero for PC but with an actual guitar for the controller. Unfortunately, it's independent, so they can't get the rights to many songs, and it seems to be taking a long time for them to finish it (it was demoed a year ago and they still haven't announced their release date). Hopefully, though, they'll get this working well...and the world will finally have virtuoso guitarists with no musical training...

As for myself, as always, I agree with Slash: guitar proficiency makes the guitar simulation frustrating. Basically, the fingers don't do what the ear says they're supposed to. (you hear a whole step, but the fingers only move one 'fret', etc.)

-The Jakes