Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Need a (Guitar) Hero

In my youth, I was, like many children of my generation, a video game fanatic. Video games were my foremost form of entertainment. I subscribed to two different video game magazines, and my allowances were typically reserved for purchasing new games. Somehow, despite all this, I failed to advance beyond the Super Nintendo. When the N64 arrived, I did not rush out and get one. I did not request one for my birthday, nor for Christmas. And that was that. Video games no longer dominated my life.

Years passed and the game systems evolved. When I again attempted to play video games with my friends as a high schooler and beyond, I found myself crippled by inexperience. The number of buttons on a typical controller had doubled since the last time I owned a game console, and I lacked the “depth-perception” necessary for traversing the 3-D video game landscapes. The side-scrolling games of yore had given me no trouble in estimating how far my on-screen character needed to jump in order to successfully clear a pit, but I couldn't last for 30 seconds in Crash Bandicoot's world.

Several systems later, and the video game industry seems to be taking a new turn. While previous games relied on the skillful manipulation of the control pad and the deft precision of button pressing, the hand-eye coordination that was once only the means of playing the game has now become an extension of—nay, the very focus of—the game itself. Dance Dance Revolution seemed to instigate this trend, while Nintendo's Wii has extended the concept beyond a single game and made it the focus of an entire game system and all of its supported titles (with great commercial success). And what's the latest smash hit? Guitar Hero, which Melanie and I played for the first time just two nights ago.

Well, guess what? We both love the game. We're tempted—though nothing will come of it—to buy a game system just to buy this one game. It's that awesome. I can see just why so many people have become addicted to it. Rather than merely dancing to music, as you do with Dance Dance Revolution (which I also thought was great fun), Guitar Hero has you (fairly literally) performing the music. And we're talking about some fantastic music at times—Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Aerosmith, Guns n' Roses, Van Halen, Billy Idol, and much, much more. As a youngster, I would listen to CDs while playing my video games. Guitar Hero combines these activities by making some of the very same music to which I used to listen the very center of the game itself. Had this game come out when I was 14 or 15, it would have been the realization of all of the wildest dreams I never knew I had.

But aside from its addictive game play, I think Guitar Hero is a great video game for other reasons. I see this as a move in the right direction for the video game industry. Not only is Guitar Hero a more group oriented video game than many others (for example, you can have up to four players—one on guitar, one on bass, one on drums, and one on vocals), but it's bound to inspire many youth to pick up a real guitar and start learning to play. That can't be a bad thing. What's more, I appreciate the fact that many teenagers of today are being introduced to music—good music—that they might otherwise never hear. I'm thrilled to think of these teenagers being turned on to quality rock n' roll (which is not all rock n' roll, I admit) and listening to something other than the pop and hip-hop crap that has dominated over the last decade or so. Seriously, I think this is a very good thing.

Long live rock n' roll.


  1. The funny thing is, the career guitar players I know can't play that game. It doesn't line up with the chords that are ingrained in their fingers for those sounds.

  2. I was just wondering what you've been doing..haha.

  3. You had a great experience.Guitar players throughout the generations have and continue to perform amazing feats on their guitars.

  4. So for Christmas, Jeff's mom gave us some money to help with bills and permission to spend some of it on presents for ourselves. Jeff got it in his head he wanted to buy one of these games and I just couldn't get myself to want it enough to spend the money on it (I DO need maternity clothes, etc :) Now I feel bad for not "letting" him buy it. You make it sound like such an epitomal experience. I'll have to start saving for Valentine's day :)

  5. I didn't know someone could be on vocals...I want to play!