Guitar Hero and Rock Band: A Musician’s Perspective

I have been thinking about writing about Guitar Hero and Rock Band for some time. However, I reserved my commentary until I actually saw these video games in action for myself. Over the holidays I managed to witness both video games in action firsthand, and it left me with mixed feelings; just as they did before witnessing them in action. I’ve got nothing against playing videos games.  Heck, I grew up playing video games. However, I have had hard time accepting Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Considering I spent ten plus years learning to play guitar, I would much rather pick up a real guitar and play the real thing. However, I recognize that not everyone wants to play the real thing. Nor does the average person have the patience or desire to play an actual instrument. Frankly, few of us do have the patience to play the real thing, but that is what makes playing/performing music special.

On Christmas day, I went to my uncle’s house, and he happened to have Rock Band (and the AC/DC junkie he is, the AC/DC edition also). I witnessed my little cousins and niece jammin’ away attempting to “perform” famous songs by various rockers. I never gave it a try. I simply watched with amusement, took pictures of family, and walked away thinking about what I witnessed.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, one of my colleagues brought an early version of Guitar Hero to the office and I witnessed that game in action during our lunchtime before we all left to celebrate the New Year. After a colleague enticed me to give it a whirl, I did. <cringe> Regardless, of whether I found the experience pointless or enjoyable, it was intriguing to see the video game in action.

Here is the thing though. Both games managed to bring people together, and allowed them to enjoy themselves with family and friends. I am all for having fun. I am all for people wanting to come together and have good time. Even feel like a rock star for an evening or two, because so many of us dream about it and never achieve that kind of success.

Where I become indifferent about the two games is when it comes to music education. I don’t know if people are less or more interested to play actual instruments since Guitar Hero and Rock Band were released. Regardless, I would much rather encourage practicing the real thing to help someone achieve their dream than spend hours a day perfecting the “art” of playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero. All the time that is spent wasting time on a video game could be used to nourish artistry.

I don’t have children, but based on my own experience, I know how easy it is to become obsessed with playing a video game. I know I certainly was. Considering the growing trend of children playing more video games and watching more TV, I just wonder what the long-term effect on children will be.

I don’t want to speculate, but it can’t be good…

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One comment on “Guitar Hero and Rock Band: A Musician’s Perspective
  1. I think you’re not giving kids enough credit. (With one or two notable exceptions) Kids know the difference between playing an instrument and playing a game, and on which side of the line Guitar Hero falls on. Furthermore, most kids have never spent their time “nourishing aristry”, with or without these games available, and the kids who are interested in musical excellence will persue that to the exclusion of pretty much anything else.

    Do you see what I mean? You can’t argue that kids will be artistic if they’re sufficiently undistracted. If a kid is going to be artistic, they’ll do it despite almost any distraction. The rest of them will just do something else.

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