Occasionally I’ll meet people that just don’t understand the appeal of Rock Band or Guitar Hero. That’s fine. There are plenty of games I don’t enjoy, too. Where they sometimes go wrong is converting that preference into a blanket statement of fact:
Guitar Hero was one thing, but Rock Band is entirely another. You’re better off learning how to play a real drum kit and/or buying a real guitar than investing in all this equipment to pretend to be a musician.
Somehow, I don’t see these people making that same argument about flying an F-16 fighter in Ace Combat, shooting at enemies in Call of Duty, or driving a car in Forza or Gran Turismo.
I think these two cartoons summarize it well:
There are also plenty of real musicians who find a lot of merit in Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Take it from Carrie Brownstein, the former guitarist for Sleater-Kinney who wrote a piece for Salon titled Rock Band vs. Real Band:
There is a sad similarity between Rock Band and some actual bands, and that is the attempt at realness. With so much of music blurring the lines between ersatz and authenticity, at least the Rock Band game is a tribute to rock, rather than an affront. In the realm of fakery, I would choose Rock Band over American Idol or over any of the other flimsy truths masquerading as music.
She also wrote a followup on NPR titled Are We Not Gamers? which expands on this article.
So, do I like Rock Band? In short, yes. If people listen to David Bowie or Black Sabbath because of the game, if they get even one glimpse of Keith Moon’s frantic genius or feel how Kurt Cobain’s guitar lines were as expressive as his hoarse cry, then Rock Band is better than listening to most of the awful music out there. And, the truth is, not everyone should form a band. Any stroll on MySpace or visit to a modern rock station will tell you that. There are probably a handful of bands who would be doing the world a favor if they broke up and played Rock Band instead. They might actually learn a thing or two.
Furthermore, there’s a lot of evidence that young players are being introduced to music fundamentals in Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Could tomorrow’s Clapton be playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band today?
The enthusiasm of [guitar] teachers like Emery and Skyler indicate that there’s a real chance the ultimate result of millions of people getting hooked on games like Guitar Hero and now Rock Band will be a new love of rock ‘n’ roll.
Part of the equation, Skyler said, is that Guitar Hero teaches rhythm.
“In the game, you have four buttons,” he said. “You have to get them in time, in sequence. So in a sense, even though (you’re) not learning the specific strings, you are building rhythm in a musical context, which is valuable.”
Do you know someone who feels fake plastic rock is for losers, and that we should all collectively form a band? Send them a link to this blog post — and invite them to your next fake plastic rock jam session!