Guitar Zero – U R 2 out of Touch

Wait! Even if you don’t like Prince I’m making a point here about ALL kinds of games! princeI’m a Prince fan, and before you scoff one of the main reasons is because I’ve seen him in concert. The man IS a Guitar Hero and not only that, he’s a Rock Band too. He plays every instrument on his albums. I saw and heard him do a very credible Zeppelin medley live here in Milwaukee and I swear to you – he no longer looked like a purple weirdo. He looked like Jimmy Page. Sounded like him too. But, man is he out of touch! Come in for the how and the why:

“. . . I just think it’s more important that kids learn how to actually play guitar.” quoted in Game Informer Magazine

Right. Yeah. I’d agree with that. If Guitar Hero was a drum machine or a sampling board, I’d agree with that. But that’s not what Guitar Hero is all about. It’s not about playing guitar, it’s not about learning guitar, it’s about pretending you can play guitar.  You know, skipping the many years it takes to master basic guitar and the decade or so it takes to learn to play a song by someone like Prince.  By Prince’s logic I should become a pilot rather than play a flight sim. I should join the military rather than play Call of Duty 4 and I had better start working on my throwing arm (or my coaching) if I expect to win a single game in Madden.

Can you come up with more example?  Please do.

Guitar Hero lets me – WITHOUT learning how to play guitar – to feel like I’m playing guitar. Kids too. The kids who want to play guitar can still play Guitar Hero and guess what? They can also take lessons.  Or, like Prince supposedly did, learn to play every instrument in the world by listening to it.  The guy is a virtuoso, a rare prodigy and also a fool.  Guitar Hero is introducing a generation of teens to music from over 6 decades. Given his own album sales, seems to me Prince could use that introduction any way he can get it.  Just let me pretend to play Purple Rain you big purple doofus!

As an afterward I’d think Prince’s real problem is with what Hip Hop has been doing for a couple decades now.  Drum machines, sampling and the computerized mixing of hooks.  I mean, can Timbaland or Dr. Dre or Moby or some more current reference even play an instrument?  I didn’t think so.  But they can play Guitar Hero. And so can I. But I can’t play anything by Prince. That sucks.  So, to paraphrase, I just think Prince should know what he’s talking about before speaking.

PS: Yes, I’m cynical enough to consider that this might be a ploy to get more money for his work.  Start a tug-o-war with Rock Band for his music.

PPS:  Yes, I know Led Zeppelin isn’t going to be featured either. Sigh.

PPS: I sooo want the Beatles disc that’s coming!

No Responses to “Guitar Zero – U R 2 out of Touch”

  1. One reason why I like Taiko Drum Master is because there’s less of a chance I’ll be able to play a REAL Taiko drum as opposed to playing a real guitar. –Cary

  2. I could not agree more.

    I think musicians who say “why not just play a real guitar.” do not understand that not everyone is wired the same way. If Steven Hawking said people should do something easy and fun like differential calculus, everyone would see it is a ridiculous statement. Prince and Jimmy Page come along and say we should do something easy and fun like play the guitar the way they do, and they forget that they are freaking geniuses and we aren’t.

    I tried to make music. I learned a bunch of different instruments and kept with several of them for years. I got fairly good at playing the correct notes at the correct times, but it was never music and it was never fun. (If you think playing the correct notes at the correct times makes it music, you’re wrong.) For a long time I thought that if I just got good enough, it would become fun, but it never did.

    That’s why I love Guitar Hero/Rock Band/Karaoke Revolution. I get to pretend to play the notes at the correct time, and professional musicians reward me by making music happen.

  3. Couple of issues:
    – There are those who would like to sell you on believing that the hand-eye coordination gained in playing a shooter will help you be a better shooter. That based on the improved hand-eye response and dexterity.
    – And that the strategy used in winning Madden games makes you a better play-strategist at real football.
    – *If* any of that is true, then the analogies don’t hold, because the music games aren’t about making music or learning anything about music performance / composition / production. They are ‘timing matching’ games.

    Nothing wrong with that … oh, other than the whole marketing campaign about ‘put together your own band and go on tour’ , where it is made analogous to real bands.

    But as you say, that is all surface stuff, and anyone who knows the games already *knows* this stuff.

    My other issue – and one where I sort of get where these guys come from – is that time is a finite quantity and allocation is a ‘zero sum game’. In other words doing one thing by necessity takes away from doing something else.

    If someone really wants to be a musician they should be playing a real instrument. Because playing Rock Band ./ Guitar Hero / etc is not teaching you anything about music. And I agree with Mike DeSanto that ‘hitting in time’ doesn’t equate to making music, so while the drums are the closest analogy, they are still differently purposed.

    So if you are serious about music and only have 1 hour a day free, play the instrument most days and then join up with your friends for some fun Rock band on the weekends … keeping in mind they are not connected.

  4. I disagree. It’s not a zero-sum game at all. Do you really think anyone – anyone – wouldn’t notice that despite the many hours they spend playing Guitar Hero their skills haven’t improved? Or that GH or RB would lure away a prospective musician who would otherwise be making music? I don’t think so, at all. At best these toys/games teach an appreciation of a wide, wide range of Guitar music. A range that would be well served by having Prince involved. But they are games – toys – and I think nongamers realize this as well as gamers do.

    I’ve also heard your other two issues – a lot. And I’m not really responding to you here Mike. It’s weird to me how gamers themselves misunderstand their own hobby. Your two examples are based on fallacies as big as the one Page and Mr. Rogers Nelson believe in. Here’s why I think this:

    Re: Shooters vs. real Shooting

    I don’t think pointing and clicking in any way teach anyone how to shoot a gun. But they absolutely do teach about military tactics – if that’s the subject of the game.

    Re: Madden

    No, Madden doesn’t teach you how football feels. What a sack is like. Or how to block, throw, run or catch. But Madden does an excellent job of teaching a playbook, how to read offense and defense, what formations indicate what, the job of each player you choose to control. the names of the positions and the players occupying them, etc.,

    But back to Mike’s point. It’s not a “zero sum” game. If anything what you gave us at the end of your post was some good parenting advice about limits. I reject the premise that all time spent on RB and GH is time taken away from playing an instrument any more than I believe taking a nap does. By this “time allocation” logic – everything is a zero sum game for everything else.

  5. I actually agree with what you say about Madden and Shooters – if you check back to the beginning of my post you’ll see I say “there are those who would have you believe” … then I further clarify “If it was true” … and finally “we know better”.

    I’m sorry, but until you can get more than 24 hours into a day you cannot refute my ‘zero sum’ assessment! :D

    … but you are correct that *everything* plays into that – school, sleep, personal hygiene, socialization, and so on. It doesn’t mean that you can pair any two arbitrary things and say that reading and athletics for a zero sum pair. But if you have 8 hours of school, 8 hours of sleep, 4 hours of sports practice and 2 hours of homework and 2 hours of eat/shower/whatever … doing something else means taking from one or more of those things.

    I think the fallacy that music-only folks make is thinking that playing GH/RB is a ‘music-related activity’. As gamers we know that it is a game-related activity, teaching you as much about music as Trauma Center teaches you about surgery.

    So you see – we actually pretty much agree on all of it.

    Oh … there is one thing I can’t say I agree with at all, which is when you ascribe “wide, wide range of Guitar music.” to what is in these games. If you said ” a solid representation of pop/rock music” I would agree, but given that they have thus far failed to have one of the best rock guitarists featured (Jeff Beck, supposedly getting a song in GH5) and that the guitarists represented wouldn’t even encompass 25% of the top 20 guitarists of the last half-century … well, it is a pretty narrow range of music that is represented.

  6. I dunno Mike, I have to side with GamerDad completely on this one. And I do think you have a skewed view of what a wide range of music is ;)

    That feeling of pretending to be a rock star is incredibly valuable, to these games and to players, particularly children and tweens. I do think GH/RB is responsible for people of all ages being more interested in a wider range of music, and I do think they are responsible for people taking up a real instrument and starting the long road to proficiency. I do not think these games have stopped anyone from taking up a real instrument.

    So while I don’t believe the guitar controllers can help anyone’s real guitar skills (other than perhaps improving finger strength and mobility in beginners?) I absolutely believe they have a strong, positive connection to real musical education.

  7. Yeah, I read your quotes. I didn’t miss them. It’s why I wrote

    “I’ve also heard your other two issues – a lot. And I’m not really responding to you here Mike.”

    when I started talking Madden/shooters

    And sure, no Yngwie (sp?) Malmsteen, probably no BB King and and guess what? No Tinarwen – and that band has something like 10 guitarists! But it does have Spongebob Squarepants (Rock Band DLC). It’s a wide range of music for 95% of teens too. Folks for whom anything from the 80’s is ancient and the 50’s-60’s are unheard of. We’ve lost radio. Tsk, kids today and their Vocoders. I’ll amend the point, both games in all iterations do a good job of presenting a wide range of pop music from the end of the Rat Pack-esque “Standards” to today’s era of Rock n’ Roll. Given that Rock n’ Roll has been “mostly dead” for a while now …I’m comfy believing that a new generation of kids will bring it back because they got to play with Roy Orbison, Metallica, Grateful Dead, Rush, Mr. Margaritaville, Jonathan Coulter, Beck, Pixies, the Who and all the rest. Check the DLC lists, put both games together (which is doable, the instruments are compatible and you’ve got a better playlist – overview – than any radio stations – and all of our dad’s record collections – ever had).

  8. And it’s a shame nobody has snatched up Rocket ’88, for hardcore bonafides alone!

  9. I WOULD BUY guitar hero if prince was on it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. My bias is only a larger view of music and musical talent. Rock isn’t about either, by and large … and in an action game life GH/RB, that is fine.

    I only have a problem when folks pretend that pop/rock = ALL of music and that pop/rock musicians are the only musicians, rather than a minority of the talent pool.

  11. Me & dad have been playing Rock Band and we just love it, it’s a great family game. BTW, speaking of Zeppelin, the band always obsessively guards their master tapes from the developers, so it’s always hard to get their songs on these games…

  12. Hi Sam – very nice point! That is the bottom line, isn’t it – despite the Madden-esque milking, these games are just a BLAST to play, and allow an intersection of video gaming and pop music appreciation. My wife – who is not a musician by any stretch and not a gamer either, completely enjoys family time with these games!

  13. Well, personally, I’m not a big guitar hero fan now, but it did get me more interested in music. I heard Knights of Cydonia a while back when i didn’t really listen to music much and it made me look up Muse and now I’m into all sorts of stuff and I did pick up a real guitar because the price point of the new guitar hero is now something ridiculous like 200 dollars (i’m not sure what it is exactly, and i know that is for the band one, but you are still talking 100 for just guitar). I already played the sax though since 4th grade (I’m going into 11th this year), so like Mike (DeSanto) was saying, it is probably easier for me to get into. I still agree with Prince in some ways, but Guitar Hero (and other games like it) is still a good way to at least get kids interested in music.

  14. “If Guitar Hero was a drum machine or a sampling board, I’d agree with that.”

    why? you’re just making the same silly mistake prince is, but for another topic entirely. it’s basically like someone coming to you and saying “why do you waste your time playing games when you could go outside?” it’s missing the point in a fundamental way, right?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z73CcodfT_w

    as a basic introduction to the concepts involved with sampling (though most folks use softsynths now) you could do worse than mr. rock.

  15. Mike “My bias is only a larger view of music and musical talent. Rock isn’t about either, by and large ”

    Well, this is a pretty DAMN big bias here Mike. I also agree with dhex.

    But can I just say that I’m impressed at how well Sam here knows his Zeppelin?

  16. Well, I haven’t played all the games out there (just Guitar Hero 3, Rock Band #1, and just got the new Guitar Hero remix thingy) but I would have to say that they seem to be mostly from the same mold.

    However, when I’m a realist and realize what kinds of music that I listen to, I realize that most of the pop music I like tends to not have much guitar in it. It doesn’t have electric guitar in it at least… I’d like to see a lot more acoustic guitar in the mix(es)…

  17. Yeah, Sam is definitely right about Zeppelin. They are notorious for guarding the use of their songs. The only recent movie I can think of that was able to use a song was school of rock, but jack black literally sent a tape to them of him on his knees, begging to use the song (the Immigrant Song). I would LOVE a led zep rock band or guitar hero though.

  18. Going back to an earlier point, shooting games do very little, if anything, to teach actual shooting skills. I suppose it is possible that they may help with a proper sight picture, but they don’t do anything to simulate the weight and feel of a firearm, nor do they do anything in terms of recoil. The dexterity and muscle memory required for shooting is nothing like what is required for shooting. I suppose they may teach something of tactics, but even the most realistic games are trying to teach something fun, as opposed to real.

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