Home > Uncategorized > You effect me, you infect me

You effect me, you infect me

I’m locked in a love/hate relationship with rhythm games. I played the original two Guitar Hero games when they were that quirky thing that the nerds did back in the living room at the party while everyone else was… whatever. Beer pong? No, too early. Whatever they did when I didn’t care.

Yeah, I did it before it was cool. I never say that, except I just did. It was awesome except that the later songs in Guitar Hero 1 were veritably unplayable. The hammer-on/pull-off system was hard as shit and the tutorials were no help. And this all pre-dated ScoreHero.com so good luck getting help!

Anyways. Those were The Good Old days. Wait, nope, that was a lie. The Good Old Days were when I got the first Rock Band. The early iterations of Guitar Hero were a baby taking its first steps and utterly rocked. But Rock Band is when they got the whole social/solo music experience and hit it on the head. It was magical.

But then I would pack up the Rock Band kit, go home, and play Guitar Hero 3 and feel dirty inside because everything except the gameplay was so bad. But for someone who really loved the guitar rhythm part, they nailed the technical execution: varying fretboard speeds, solid hammer-on system, everything.

And then I made two big mistakes: I picked up a real guitar and I went off to college.

For some reason, I am required, when I actually play a rhythm game on an ongoing basis, to have a shrine to it. A shrine with a controller that I can just pick up and play. Having to spend ten minutes setting up the drum kit that I had to break down to fit under my bed in the dorm Freshman year? No play. And, of course, a roommate who’s always watching TV kinda killed my playtime Sophomore year.

And so I’m in withdrawal. But I’m getting sucked back in. The one thing that’s really got me hook-line-and-sinker, that’s made me recant my promise never to buy a Guitar Hero game again after 3 is Guitar Hero Smash Hits, which as near as I can tell found its target demographic by aiming at the crosshair on my back. A combination of all the classic Guitar Hero songs that I loved back when the genre was lame, with updated gameplay systems and graphics, plus parts for the whole band? Sign me up.

And then I remember why I don’t play any more: I don’t have my shrine. There’s no space. But, there, glimmering on the horizon, lies hope for my rhythm game salvation: my apartment. Okay, that’s great. Wait a few months. Hope you’ve found a bed to sleep in by the time you move in! (I haven’t.)

But anyways, just like someone who’s quit smoking is extraordinarily sensitive to secondhand smoke, my ears are constantly up, waiting for news. Guitar Hero: Aerosmith? Guitar Hero: Metallica? Guitar Hero for the DS, Part III? It’s all a sickening form of crass commercialization that is making an astounding number of people astoundingly rich. Don’t believe me?

A survey conducted by Brown University’s Kiri Miller found that 76% of the players of Guitar Hero bought the music they heard in the game. . . . The band DragonForce, whose song “Through the Fire and Flames” is featured as a bonus song in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, saw a 126% increase in CD sales in the week after the release of the game, and downloads of the song, selling fewer than 2,000 weekly, rose to more than 10,000 after Guitar Hero III’s release and approached 40,000 the week ending 2007-12-30. [That’s a 20-fold increase for those of you playing the home game. -HZS]

Even older, established groups such as Aerosmith saw an increase in sales at the same time Guitar Hero games containing their songs were released, . . . a 40% increase in the band’s catalog was seen in the weeks following the release of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. According to Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith has made more money for Aerosmith than any of their previous albums.

Christ on crutches. I have no further wonder why there were a dozen or so different Guitar Hero titles released last year. It’s a giant, all-consuming tornado. A tornado made of dollars.

And then there’s the competition, Rock Band, which is releasing The Beatles: Rock Band and Lego Rock Band this year, both of which seem like sensible and viable iterations on the series. For some reason even I can’t explain, I find myself attracted to the guitars that are going to be sold bundled with The Beatles: Rock Band:

But in the end, it seems like the whole industry is due to burn itself out at this pace. The original Guitar Hero whose halcyon days are a fond memory to me was released in 2005. It’s barely four years old! The original Rock Band, which I usually think of as being the first stone in this avalanche, hit shelves in November 2007: a year and a half ago.

A practical voice says that the success is based on increased record sales accompanying the sale of the tracks in a game and that with a vast number of songs coming out, the effect will doubtlessly become very diffuse and the individual contribution relatively small. But it’s hard to imagine that it will ever be negligible.

In short, although I feel appalled as a original groupie who hotly anticipated the release of Guitar Hero II (Cooperative modes so we don’t have to play against each other all the time!) at the frankly obscene level of commercialization of my beloved genre, it’s hard to dispute the fact that these games are here to stay. Many gamers will compare Guitar Hero with its more-than-annual releases to Madden, the football game series that is faithfully re-bought every year by a fantastic number of sports fans.

But, actually, I think the comparison made by Wikipedia (yes, Firefox, Wikipedia is a word) in the above link is more apt: I think that rhythm game tracks are destined to become a part of the music industry in exactly the same way that music videos are. There will be an expectation that for any mainstream album, part of your promotional budget will go to filming music videos for a certain number of singles, and another part will go to paying to have rhythm game tracks made of a certain number of singles, and sometimes the whole album.

Oh yeah, and then the final step: bathe in money from the track sales.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I subscribed to your blog 🙂

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