WE SALUTE YOU (sorry, had to be done).
by now i’m sure all of you, regardless of your gamer or geek status, or lack thereof, have spent some time in the world of console game rock. by this i mean taking part, willingly or not, in the guitar hero or rockband franchises, by activision and harmonix. and while playing these games gives you and your friends a chance to play pretend living room rockstar, and those blazing 5-button riffs make you a regular eric clapton in front of your tv, OUTSIDE the sphere of the game series you pick up a fender and you’re still absolutely useless.
activision and harmonix have have sold millions of units since their first inception years ago, spawning numerous sequels and highly popular band-specific spinoffs such as aerosmith, metallica, and even the damn beatles. some musicians (major ones) and music critics panned the entire series – claiming that the virtual rock is causing less young people to pick up real instruments to get into music by encouraging them that learning is unnecessary.
nick mason from pink floyd, when asked about the phenomenon at abbey road studios late last year, said “it irritates me having watched my kids do it,” and further, “if they spent as much time practising the guitar as learning how to press the buttons they’d be damn good by now.” that sentiment was shared by the rolling stones’ bill wyman. activision and harmonix of course defend their products, saying that they’ve been flooded with letters from customers saying the game inspired them to take up music. there are cases for both really. on one hand, playing the game does provide instant gratification. on the other hand, when i think about amazing, truly great american guitarists, not many more than jimi hendrix and slash come to mind.
i myself own the now outdated guitar hero 3, and i still have fun with it. my friends and i have also been guilty of getting on a rockband set and celebrating finishing hard songs in various stages of rock out glory. *cough* this may have been sometimes fueled by rum.*cough* none of us are really musicians – we’ve all played something at some time or another, but our five button jams and free form drum solos made the ramones sound good and that was good enough for us. personally, i’ll still play for score.
and damn it i will not rest until i get 5 stars on devil went down to georgia.
ANYWAY, here’s something that might appease critics. fresh from the ongoing game developers conference in san francisco comes seven45’s power gig: rise of the sixstring, a music simulation game that blows rockband and guitar hero out of the WATER. its interface is completely unique and realistic in comparison to its predecessors. the reason? cheap plastic parts, batteries and a toggle are replaced by wood, pickups, strings, a real neck, fretboard… keys… wait a minute… this is a real guitar! so who’s seven45 studios? they’re a part of first act musical instruments, a company that makes both entry-level and high-end guitars and other instruments for aspiring musicians. you’ve probably seen some of their stuff in retail stores – usually guitar/amp packages at places like best buy or target. the power gig guitar is able to be plugged into a regular amplifier in addition to either the xbox360 or playstation 3. it clearly won’t sound QUITE as sharp as a stratocaster or les paul, but it’s good enough for a beginner to learn.
back to the game – seven45 will not only be offering a standalone software version, but will have packages bundling guitars, strings, and even a drum set. the game allows different flavors for different players – either the player must time and strike the appropriate chords to properly play the song, or the guitar gets converted into a rockband-esque version with the addition of a damper on the neck. as far as the playlist, they’re promising tracklists that are comparable in size to guitar hero and rockband, BUT, they will be using ALL MASTER TRACKS, not any ill-sounding covers.
this game is going to be huge in getting more kids into music, especially since it will be priced about the same as bundles currently sold. many educators that say that an education is not complete without music are absolutely right, and with the number of school music programs at risk, this may be of some help and educational value.
plus, maybe some young kid somewhere will learn all along the watchtower and really show us something 15 or 20 years down the road.