Hero or Zero?
Do musical-themed video games like the Guitar Hero series, the new Rock Band game, and an avalanche of recently introduced me-too products from various toy makers do anything to get more people interested in learning to music in the real world?
That’s a question that’s been hovering over the business for a while now and the answer is elusive, to say the least.
A recent article on the Web site News.com had a provocative title — “Is Tomorrow’s Clapton Playing Guitar Hero?” — but came up short of a definitive call. It quoted a New York-based guitar school operator who raved about the game, saying “My business is safe for years to come when I see kids playing Guitar Hero.” The teacher compared it to the positive effect for his business engendered by the sleeper movie hit “School of Rock” a few years back, when suddenly nine-year-olds were showing up for lessons.
However, in the same piece another teacher took a decidedly different view, stating flatly that such a game “is going to kill music.” To him, kids hung up on music gaming will shun traditional instruction in guitar, which he notes “is not really easy to learn.”
Will a percentage of gamers make the jump to guitar – and, if so, how many? Even a representative of Red Octane, the maker of Guitar Hero, equivocated on this point at last summer’s NAMM Summit in Carlsbad.
More recently, as reported in an industry trade magazine, a Chicago-area dealer held Guitar Hero contests in-store in hopes of gauging the crossover rate. That’s an idea that may be worth a shot for other stores in the coming months.
On the heels of Guitar Hero’s runaway success, its manufacturer has rolled out Rock Band, a game that adds vocals, bass, and drums to the Guitar Hero format. Reviewing the new entry in the Washington Post, professional guitarist Carrie Brownstein offered a few astute observations. After gathering some friends to try out Rock Band, she commented, “… I realized we were having a party where people were sitting around playing video games. And really, if your are going to play games with a group of friends for more than one night, shouldn’t you just form a real band?”
Brownstein concludes, “There’s something sad about the thought of four teenagers getting Rock Band for Christmas and spending all their after-school time pretending to know how to play.”
I think she’s right. There is “something sad” in that scenario – and, I’m sure you’ll agree, not just for the teenage pretenders.