So it’s not a real secret how I feel about music games, is it?
I don’t hate music. Quite the opposite; I was a music minor in college and play four different instruments. But you can count the music-based games I love on one hand. Let’s look at the list — and it’s not a very big list, it’s quite short. Not the usual kind of list you’d see here. It consists of Rhythm Heaven, PaRappa the Rapper, Elite Beat Agents, and Mario Paint. These games are fantastic, but as a general rule, I find the more typical fashion of music game to be quite lacking in, well, pretty much everything.
See, the thing about games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band is that they are in no way true to the music itself. Well, except for the fact that the music that’s playing is correct and, to be honest, the rhythm is something that one playing the games would have to keep correct, too. The problem is that you are not simulating the actual playing of the music in any way, except when you are singing. This makes these games almost as authentic as Karaoke Revolution.
I know, all you guitar heroes are saying, “It’s not supposed to be real. It’s just a GAME.” Yeah, whatever. It’s not like how when you play Super Mario Bros it’s not really like stomping on turtles in real life, which is actually quite depressing. This is a different animal. You are not really playing music. The controllers you use in these games are nothing like the actual instruments you would play. The mere fact that the bass and guitar controllers are the same is proof of this.
Sure, this is something that not everyone is bothered by. People with musical experience, though, tend to be less excited by fake musical instruments than those without, I guess. Technically, the Guitar Hero guitar is no more real than that plastic toy guitar you got when you were six. Before you say, “that’s not the point,” let me remind you that this IS the point. It’s nothing like playing real music.
Maybe that’s why I have such a problem with it. Why would I play a song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Rock Band when I could just do it for real instead? I play games to escape from the ordinary, and since music is something I can do all the time, playing it in a profoundly reduced form does nothing for me in any way.
What does this say about other games? I can’t slash people with swords or run my own game company in real life, so doing that in Zelda or WarioWare is still interesting. Sure, I can play football in real life if I get enough people together, but in Madden I can do it with the real pros, so that makes it interesting.
Maybe it’s the ability to do stuff we can’t regularly participate in that makes games interesting, among other things. It’s the same kind of escapism we find in TV or books or movies, only on a different scale. In the reverse, we wouldn’t necessarily want to do things in games that we would NOT want to try in real life, which is where there isn’t a Let’s Get A Colonoscopy game.