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Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Hot Rock (Band)

posted by on November 29 at 13:47 PM

As someone who has played a lot of Guitar Hero I am of course intrigued by its upcoming competitor: Rock Band. I’ve read a review or two on video game sites, and though they’ve been somewhat informative, I don’t particularly care what those nerds have to say. Slate has just published an article by Sleater Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein about her experience with the game after agreeing to help them come up with some PR ideas, and it’s pretty funny and insightful. As it turns out, even a professional musician like Brownstein, who has relatively no interest in video games, could not help but be ensnared by the game’s multi-colored tentacles.

After drumming along while Brad sang a respectable version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” he left me alone with the console. I have never had more than a passing interest in video games. Growing up, we weren’t allowed to have Atari, Coleco, or Nintendo. And though I enjoyed a few hours of Super Mario Bros. at friends’ houses now and then, no permanent affection for the medium took hold. Once Brad left my house, I immediately packed up the system and my TV and moved everything to the den. Now I could relax, wait to play until the party I’d planned, and return to my refined pre-Rock Band life.

The feeling of superiority was fleeting. At approximately 8 p.m., I plugged in a guitar, selected solo tour mode, and played Rock Band for three hours straight. I was sweating, quickly developing a callous on my thumb, and had a splitting headache. Still, I could not stop. My “band” had worked its way up from our hometown of Paris all the way to New York! We had a manager, a tour bus, and were able to afford better clothing and fancier instruments. Even though some of my band mates—all avatars—had green dreadlocks or belly button rings (things that I usually find offensive), it didn’t matter; we were good, we were going places. And probably the best part about the tour with my Rock Band band was that even though I went to sleep feeling like I had been inside a shopping mall for the past few hours, I slept in my own bed that night.

Although Brownstein’s review isn’t wholly without criticism, it is a generally positive review of the game. She ends with the number one question asked by real musicians when faced with the dilemma of wasting time on music video games: wouldn’t your time be better spent practicing real instruments and starting a real band? Her answer is of course yes, but for the people who wouldn’t have played real instruments, maybe playing hours and hours of Rock Band will help nudge them in the direction of playing actual music. Which seems like a nice thought, but are those really the people we want starting more bands? The kids that only started playing because they got the idea from their video game? I was hoping it could work the other way, where people in really awful bands realized that they could be excellent on Rock Band and would therefore stay content in their living rooms instead of torturing audiences with their bullshit.

I tried to play the Rock Band demo at Best Buy and someone had already broken one of the electronic drums. I can’t decide if that is hardly, or totally, rock and roll.

thanks to Elissa B. for the tip

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Who's to say a video game is too cheap of a motivation? A lot of the musicians who started playing because they thought it might get them laid actually turn out to be pretty good. Which just goes to show.

Posted by flamingbanjo | November 29, 2007 2:30 PM

how appropriate!

12.19 Wednesday Pink Godzilla Games Presents
A Night of No-Holds-Barred Simulated Rock to Benefit Penny Arcade's Child's Play Charity
Get your ROCK BAND Foursome or Solo Act Together and Compete on Nectar's Stage to Win Fabulous Video Game Prizes to Help Out a Great Cause!
$10 Suggested Donation
8pm doors
21 & Over
NECTAR. 412 N 36th St

Four Players at a time will take the stage to rock in front of the crowd, their 'virtual performance' projected on a huge 10x10 ft screen behind them

Posted by Colin | November 29, 2007 5:36 PM

"wouldn’t your time be better spent practicing real instruments and starting a real band?"

Thats why I quit playing Mario Brothers and became an Italian plumber instead. Stupid video games.

Posted by Ian | November 29, 2007 5:49 PM

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