It’s JUST a game, for heaven’s sake.

The following paragraph is from a press release coming out of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo.  Commonly known as E3, this event serves as one of the biggest events of the year for all of us that obsess just a bit too much about toys and games.  This particular notice is referring to the next version of Guitar Hero, scheduled to come around this fall:

KEY FEATURES:
State of the Art Wireless Instruments – In addition to a newly redesigned, more responsive guitar controller which features a touch-sensitive slide bar on the neck,Guitar Hero World Tour will deliver the most realistic drum experience ever in a video game with an authentic drum kit. Featuring three drum pads, two raised cymbals and a bass kick pedal, the drum controller combines larger and quieter, velocity-sensitive drum heads with soft rubber construction to deliver authentic bounce back and is easy to set up, move, break down and store.
The Next Great Songwriter, is You – Guitar Hero World Tour’s innovative new Music Studio lets players express their musical creativity by giving them access to a full complement of tools to create digital music from scratch utilizing the redesigned touch-sensitive guitar controller and an authentic drum kit. Virtuosos can then play their compositions in-game and share the recordings with the entire Guitar Hero community through GHTunes™ where other gamers from around the world will be able to download and play their original tracks. Available to Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 gamers is Line 6’s guitar tone technology, enabling them to use amps, cabs and effects from the world-renown Line 6 POD®.

These announcements revisit another of our past discussion topics, exploring the blurring of lines between games and art.  There were already hacks available that detailed how to take the Rock Band drum kit and hook it up as an input device to Apple’s Garage Band.  What impact will the features described above have on student interest in creativity?  Will great works emerge from kids just “goofing around”?  To me, one of the more interesting things to watch as this develops is the impact that the very rich and very effective social networks that the Xbox 360 will have on the development, release, and sharing of gamer compositions.

On a related note, this from the Nintendo press thingy, also part of E3 (the time stamps were a result of the event being blogged real-time):

[10:00] Most music games require precise timing and onscreen symbol matching, he explains. Wii Music was designed instead to allow everyone to experience the joy of performing music. There’s no need to closely follow notes or rhythm guides; just hold the controller like you would a real instrument and the game plays notes to match the song.
[10:01] Miyamoto doesn’t play the sax, but he was able to play a song from an F-Zero game. Wii Music will include more than 50 instruments, including the piano and violin.
[10:02] He also demonstrates the game’s electric guitar and taiko drum.
[10:03] The first-person drumming with the Balance Board demonstrated earlier is actually a special mode that will include tutorials to teach users to play drums.
[10:04] The orchestra game that Miyamoto demonstrated when Wii Music was first unveiled years ago will also be included. Players will be able to save parts of a song and combine them to form their own music videos.
[10:05] Up to four players can play simultaneously, and the in-game bands are limited to six instruments. They demo it with a xylophone, conga drums, cowbell, horns, and guitar. The group plays the classic Super Mario Bros. theme.

The Wii option sounds like it will be very forgiving, providing easy access to small children.  Will this low-barrier to entry prevent folks from really creating serious music on it?

Also announced by Nintendo during the event is an add-on to the Wii-mote that will make direct translation of movement a reality.  Does this mean that the first “Wii Paint” and “Wii Sculpt” can’t be far behind?

Where will all of this lead?

6 Thoughts on “It’s JUST a game, for heaven’s sake.

  1. jeff on July 16, 2008 at 9:35 pm said:

    My first thought is … why not just learn to play the drums, guitar, etc., FOR REAL? I mean, it seems with every iteration, it moves more and more in that direction, anyway. What am I missing?

  2. marc on July 17, 2008 at 8:41 am said:

    Seems to me “practice” is what we have to do to acquire the more machine-like aspects of playing an instrument. We train our minds and bodies to execute behaviors reliably and consistently. Why not offer a situation in which the machine takes care of a great deal of that? Many people “feel” the music inside and don’t have the physical training to tease it out through an instrument. Computers give them experiences in which music can be expressed and released. The feats of the virtuoso are another matter another world. You shouldn’t have to train to function that way if you are not so inclined, but many carry “music” that longs to be released. It’s very satisfying to hear a result that you have somehow created, to “hear your heart.”

  3. turff on July 17, 2008 at 10:27 am said:

    Jeff, my thought is that this may be the emerging means of playing for real. While the guitar simulation is still WAY off, the drumming is quickly approaching meaningful simulation/replication. I think the impacts of this sort of development include:
    1. Lowering barriers to entry for folks that are interested in pursuing music as an interest (I know, only drums now, but i believe the natural evolution of this thing will expand beyond). Many kids already have the console, so for $129 for Rock Band, they can effectively have a drum kit and a few months worth of lessons. Pretty sure that’s a lot cheaper in terms of setup costs. On top of setup costs, they don’t have to have Mom drive them to the lessons, they can learn when they want, and they get “achievement points” that they can compare and contrast with their friends. More lowering of the barriers to entry.
    2. With the coming release, the emphasis is starting to shift from replication of performances to CREATION of performances. All as part of a game.
    3. The social network inherent in the gaming world is key to why I find all of this so interesting. We’re not talking about kids comparing notes on the playground about beating Yar’s Revenge. We’re talking about instantaneous feedback as songs can be played on the network for friends and others realtime. The best will be passed around the community. How long until the first Rock Band composition makes a climb up the charts? What the internet has done for indy musicians, Rock Band may soon do for indy teens.

    All speculation, but that’s what makes it so fun.

  4. turff on July 17, 2008 at 10:31 am said:

    marc,
    The built in feedback loop within these games (play song, follow sequences right, get points, ROCK HARD) is EXTREMELY gratifying. I can start out on the easy level, playing along with the Beastie Boys, and the notes are selected within the gameplay such that I start to get a feel for what its like to experience playing the song. As I move up the difficulty scale to tougher versions, it becomes less a simulation and more the real thing. Suddenly, the gap between the music I could always feel within me and the motions I make with my hands/arms/feet is closing dramatically. I can tell you from personal experience that the thrills are significant.

  5. As someone who plays guitar and Guitar Hero, I can say that Guitar Hero can be a very rewarding process. My head knows that I’m just clicking buttons, but if you turn the game up loud enough, it really can feel like you’re rocking pretty hard. I mean, I can’t play the solos from Devil Went Down to Georgia in real life (I never said I was a GOOD guitarist), but on the game I’m a rock god. Even on songs I DO know how to play in real life (like Paint It Black and My Name is Jonas), it’s very satisfying to feel like you’re playing as part of the band.

    Rock Band provides similar stimulation, but for 3-4 people at a time. It’s a great group activity (and the singing is like karaoke with a better backing track), where you can FEEL like you’re making music, even though you KNOW you’re not.

    Wii Music is an interesting piece of fruit. From the description Nintendo has given, it sounds pretty much like you’re creating free form jazz by waving sticks and pressing buttons. Is there a game aspect at all, or is it strictly a creative experience? It’s intriguing, but I think I like the idea of the music video game that makes me feel like I’m better at something than I really am.

  6. marc on July 18, 2008 at 9:36 am said:

    Dude, what’s your level on Cliffs of Dover?

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