I have thought about this subject a lot. When playing a game like Guitar Hero or Rockband, people always say “Why don’t you just play a real instrument?” This question I feel is easy to answer, as I am going to try to do here. First and foremost, I would like clarify the subject of gaming as a whole, for me, the simplest way to do that is to compare it to other things which EVERYONE does:
Gaming is: A waste of time.
Watching TV is: A waste of time.
Watching Movies is: A waste of time.
Sitting around drinking beer is: A waste of time.
Reading Magazines is: A waste of time.
Now that we have that out of way, when people look at me as an adult gamer, they find it hard to understand why I play games. It is such a waste of time after all, right. However, if I sat home watching re-runs of Law and Order for a few hours each day after work, I would be a perfectly normal adult. So unless you come home from work each day and build shit, work on some sort of constructive project, spend time bonding with your kids, or something else relatively constructive and good for you, what are you doing. Wasting time. I simply choose to play games vs. the other things on my very short list above. So, take that into account when reading the rest of this article.
I have some friends who simply refuse to play Guitar Hero. Why? Because they feel gay, or silly sitting there with a plastic guitar. However, they will sit and play sports games with a little plastic controller, or play the Wii with a little plastic steering wheel all day. Why must it be so different. “I’d rather just play a real instrument” is another common answer I hear when people decline to play Guitar Hero.
Now I understand that everyone has their preference when it comes to games, even if that preference is to not play games at all. That is fine, everyone is entitled to that. I rarely hear anyone say “Meh, I just don’t like that game too much” when it comes to GH though, its always something about feeling stupid, or playing a real instrument. Now, I can definetly understand not wanting to look like this guy:
But in reality, who cares what you look like when you are just hanging out at someone’s house around some friends?
Lets make a comparison. On the left is the game, or type of game, and on the right would be the real life equivalent. I am going to try to use games that tons of people play in this list, as to save myself having to explain that further. I am also going to avoid fictional genre games like Halo, since you can’t go and shoot aliens in real life.
Guitar Hero -> Playing Guitar
Dance Dance Revolution -> Going to a club and dancing
NBA/NHL/NFL Games -> Playing real sports
Call of Duty -> Joining the army and killing people
Splinter Cell -> Becoming a Secret Agent
Tony Hawk -> Skateboarding
These are what I will call “reality games” as they simulate things you can actually go outside and do! Unlike Mario, or World of Warcraft, or Halo, which simulate things you can’t do. Many people will argue that the purity of video games is to put you into some sort of fictional world doing things you can’t do in the real world, thats why they are fun, and thats why they are acceptable. Much like reading a great science fiction novel, you do it to enjoy simulating things which you could never actually do.
Reality games though, which are increasingly popular, simulate things you could actually go do, but in a more grandiose way. In Guitar Hero you aren’t a shitty guitar player in your house, you are a rock star god. In NBA games you aren’t shooting hoops in the local park, you are an NBA super star. So the essence of fantasy is still there. The fact that they are still a waste of time, is there also. I think the perfect joke against all reality games, even though it was aimed directly as a stab at guitar hero, is heroin hero.
The thing is, when is the last time you heard someone say to you during a session playing Call of Duty “Why don’t you go join the army and kill arabs?”, or when you are playing NBA 2k8 “You should just go play basketball all day and become a pro”. Are these valid things to say? Of course they are. If kids these days spent as much time doing the real life equivalent activity to they game they play, maybe they could become rock stars, pro athletes, or super spies. I will never argue that. Just like I won’t argue that parents might be better parents if they didn’t spend so much time watching television.
So why so much ridicule for Guitar Hero? Its just a fun simulation of being a rock star. You press on little colored buttons at the right time to win. Same as any other game. Sure the little plastic guitar is silly looking in the hands of a 6′ 6″ adult, but in reality it is no different from any other video game in the world. An entertaining way to pass the time.
The bottom line here is, no one who plays Guitar Hero actually thinks they are accomplishing anything. No one thinks they are getting better at the real guitar when they play it. Just like no one who plays Madden 2009 all day thinks it makes them any better at football.
This game is making people spend hundreds of hours in front of a TV and make pretend that they are playing actual guitar whilst being damn good at it. It really reminds us of the time when we were little and made fun of girls to have a make pretend tea party. Yeh, it is probably more faggish than dolls because females actually learned and practiced how to be housewives. This is due to the reason that people who actually play this game have absolutely no skill with the real guitar yet think of themselves as cool because they can rack up a score of a million in an hour.
Entertainment people, thats all it is. Now playing the drums in Rockband, thats a whole different story.