The Beat’s Gregory Paul Silber has been accused of having a bit of… a maniac. Every week at Silber Linings, he takes a humorous look at the weirdest, funniest, and most obscure parts of comedy and pop culture he can’t get out of his head.
Chances are, if you’re a millennial or generation Z-er in the mid to late 2000s, then Guitar champ And rock band The perks were inevitable, even if you weren’t particularly interested in rock music or video games. moment of origin Guitar champ Released on Playstation 2 in 2005, it launched a cultural phenomenon that has revived my generation’s interest in guitar-based music from our parents to our great-grandparents. Then in 2007, the incorporation Guitar champ The developer Harmonix left the publisher Activision to create a file rock band A series of MTV games, up to four players can repeat the feeling of being rock stars at the same time, playing the roles of guitarist, drummer, vocalist, and of course bassist. It was a staple of sleepovers, parties, and other teen hangouts throughout my high school and college years. It was the way I bonded with friends and discovered music that I still love to this day, and I know many people my age have had similar experiences.
Latest Guitar Hero game, Guitar Hero Livereleased in 2015, with rock 4, the last game so far from that series, which was released in the same year, and by that time both games were attempts to revitalize a franchise that had already peaked years earlier. Writing this now in 2022, the rocker’s trend is largely seen as an early 21st century fad that has long since gone out of fashion. I suspect that the inherent absurdity of imitating the feeling of playing classic rock songs on plastic guitars and drums still recalls some of the disdain I had at the time; “Why don’t you learn to play the real guitar?”
Now that the dust has settled on unfamiliar frivolity, let’s talk about why these games are making such an impact, why they’ve lost their grip on the zeitgeist, and why I still look at them with fondness many years ago when I last used “Star Power.”
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Historic with indeed play The music was more chaotic. I left the trumpet in middle school, mostly because everyone in my class—the other kids, also my teacher—were bullies, but honestly, the trumpet was probably the wrong instrument for me at first. I appreciate classical music and jazz, and I went through ska-punk in high school and college, but if I was going to learn an instrument it had to be guitar. Rock has always been my favorite genre, and even when I listen to other genres like pop or hip-hop, the guitar is the instrument I have a keen ear for.
“I can tell you’ve never played guitar before,” the 20-year-old employee at this video game café said when he saw me awkwardly trying to tune the bar on my guitar console. He took a moment to teach me the basics of where my hands should go before he let me fend for myself. But even playing in Easy mode (I’m finally competent enough to play most songs on Expert), the moment I made a note in time with a very close copy of Joan JettI was hooked.
The magic of Guitar Hero and Rock Band games isn’t that they make you feel like a rock star, although that has always been their main selling point. It was the case that the nature of the game forced you to pay attention to each individual note, thus enhancing your appreciation of the music itself.
My paternal grandfather, born in the late 1920s, is the most passionate acoustics enthusiast I have ever met and probably will ever meet. He has amassed thousands – perhaps even tens of thousands – of recordings over decades and made more albums than most people will ever listen to. Even so, in his 90s, his favorite pastime is sitting in his living room with the massive stereo system and listening to music. Chamber music is his favorite genre, and he gravitates toward classical music in general, but he remains open-minded and is happy to throw a contemporary pop album if he thinks it has good sound quality. Just sitting on the sofa and listening to music. It’s not just background music when he’s cleaning the house or looking at his phone (not that he’s going to do that anyway; he hates cell phones). He just sits there and listens to music.
Most people in my generation don’t do that. I’m as guilty as everyone else. Despite the importance of music to me, I rarely take the time to make music my primary focus, unless I’m at a concert. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with letting the music play as background noise, but if that’s all your music is, are you making the most of it as much as you can?
Video games, however, are not a passive activity. When you play Guitar Hero or Rock Band, your mind and body have to focus on pressing the right buttons to match the notes on the screen. Notes are played only when “strum”, and if you tap the wrong tone, unpleasant sound effects are played instead. Play badly enough and the virtual audience will groan and eventually piss you off the stage, ending the song prematurely.
Wanting to play well to get good results and supporting “fans” improves not only player performance, but also the appreciation of the songs themselves. You have no choice but to listen to every note. I didn’t care much about heavy metal, for example, until guitar games made me realize how talented you, and even athletes, are to play a lot of the musical notes correctly in quick succession while playing wild solos.
With all the time I spent playing these games, couldn’t I learn to play real guitar? I don’t know, I guess. The learning curve could be much steeper, and even if I could teach myself to play instead of spending money on lessons, a decent electric guitar, along with an amplifier and related necessary equipment, would probably have been more expensive than a video game console Not to mention the cost of a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game itself.
Furthermore, at the end of the day I didn’t really care that I couldn’t actually play guitar (or bass, or drums… I’m also a pretty bad singer). Yelling at kids that playing these games isn’t the same as playing real instruments was kind of like yelling at pro wrestling fans “It’s fake, you know!” We all know it’s fake. A lot of the things people enjoy are fake. This does not make them any less fun. No one who played musical games thought they were substitutes for the real thing, although it sparked enough interest for some kids to ask their parents for real guitars. I never bothered, but my love for music was real.
Of course, learning to develop a greater appreciation for music has made me admire many artists that I might not have had time with before. For example, I discovered one of my favorite bands, Silversun Pickups (as SILPERSUN Pickups amirite?!?!?!?!) (Editor’s note: No. -JG) When one of their first singles, a dynamic slow-burning epic called “Lazy Eye,” debuted in 2008. Guitar Hero: World Tour Along with more familiar favorites like “Hotel California” for The Eagles and “Santeria” for Sublime. Watching these songs performed by generic animated avatars also removed some of the preconceptions one might have about the artist’s appearance. The first several times I heard “Lazy Eye,” I assumed the beautiful, high-pitched voices belonged to a woman. It wasn’t until months later, when I watched the music video for “Panic Switch” from their next album, that I realized that the front man Brian Obert was a man. There is a woman in the band, a guitarist Nikki MunningerShe only sings occasionally.
Nikki rocks by the way. Panic Key boasts my all-time favorite bass line.
There are many other artists that I have discovered or developed a greater appreciation for because of these games. I had known about Nirvana before and had heard “smells like a fig spirit” many times in my life, but it wasn’t until after I interacted with the dynamics of the “Heart Shaped Box” that is light, quiet, and loud. Guitar Hero II That I walked the path of them being declared my all-time favorite band, which they still are. I had only vaguely heard of Yeah Yeahs before singing it on the original rock band With my then girlfriend while she was playing guitar, but now it’s a karaoke song. I’ve never even heard of Rilo Kiley before rock 3 – The only game among these to have a keyboard component – but damn if it’s groundbreaking Jenny Lewis She hasn’t written one of the most bittersweet indie rock songs ever.
I suspect that if the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series had not saturated themselves so quickly, their popularity would have lasted much longer. There is no shortage of great rock songs in the world and new bands keep coming out that would fit right in with those games, but there are a limited number of popular classics that have taken up very quickly in these games. Several games in this series have been released annually for about a decade, including mobile versions, mobile games, and casual games such as Guitar Hero Encore: Rock in the 80’s And lego rock band, and domain-specific entries such as The Beatles Rock. Not only that, but in addition to the songs included on the disc in each game, additional downloadable songs were made available for purchase each week. There are a few great songs on the soundtracks of both Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live, but a look at these “song playlists” indicates that a lot of the best rock music available has already been burned into the previous games.
Phil Spencer, The head of Microsoft’s gaming division recently expressed interest in reviving the dormant Guitar Hero franchise. I’m skeptical. I’d be happy to play one of these games again, even (especially?) if it recycled a bunch of previously used songs, but would anyone else – especially a new generation of kids – have any interest? Where else can the franchise go at this point?
I don’t know, but I’ll always be affectionate about the original Guitar Hero/Rock Band era. It was a great way to discover great music, connect with peers, and even find common ground with older adults who were struck by the ’90s kids with their interest in Boomer’s works like The Rolling Stones and The Who. One of the best times I’ve ever had was playing Blue Öyster Cult in some kids’ basement.