As those of you who know me by now will be aware I am unable to grasp the attraction of Guitar Hero.
Not, you understand, that I have anything against games systems – I am old enough to have had an Atari system with Pac-Man and Space Invaders, to have listened to the ear-piercing high-volume screeching of a ZX Spectrum loading and yes, to have owned a Sega Megadrive.
My most recent system is quite old now – bought just before I discovered girls (or a specific girl discovered me at any rate) - and its main function in life is to gather dust and to serve as a shelf for the TV remote. Occasionally I will feel in the mood to re-play one of my “jump about and kill things” games (most games can essentially be boiled down to a few basic elements: jump about, collect and kill things – drive about, collect and smash into things – and, more recently, blow nine types out of crap out of things whilst re-creating the Somme/other famous battle/attempting to fly a plane)
To be frank the new generation of “wave your arms about like a prat” games just don’t interest me – they just seem to be a gimic, designed to take attention away from the fact that games are suddenly being designed for people with the attention span of a gnat – and Guitar Hero is, for me, one of the worst offenders (although a special place in the hall of fame will no doubt be reserved for the Wii-Fit – a system designed for those of us who want to merely pretend we have a fitness regime without the unnecessary effort of joining a gym and then never going)
I don’t think it helps that I play not one but four instruments ((in degree of ability these go: Guitar, Sax (although this is catching up quickly), Bass, Keyboards)) and from a musical point of view I can’t quite see what the attraction of standing in front of a TV screen frantically going GREEN-RED-RED-RED-GREEN-BLUE for hours on end is.
My argument goes as thus:
For the price of a Rock Band starter pack and PS3 (or whatever) you could buy a decent second hand acoustic guitar from a charity shop and pay for 12 months of community college education (starting from £40 for ten weeks) and within a few weeks be playing whatever songs you chose and not just those few prescribed by “the man”
Also: you don’t have to “unlock” a specific song before you can “play” it – simply type the words “guitar tab” into your search engine and watch the hundreds of sites come up (though very few for sax or keyboards as this would involve transcribing music)
This is ultimately much more rewarding and fulfilling.
But I was putting this point to a friend over Christmas and they said: “Yes, that’s all very well but: a) not everyone has musical ability, b) Guitar Hero et al are designed as party games – not as musical accomplishments.
And whilst I can see that side of the argument it does raise further questions.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with playing computer games – they can be stimulating, challenging and pass many a lonely hour – but the point of a computer game is that it’s something you do on your own, maybe with one or two other people.
Many of the board games I used to play as a kid are now being turned into computer games for the Wii or similar: Monopoly, Scrabble and so forth – but this raises an important social issue.
Back in the day when you had a party you would sit around the room facing one another, interacting directly with one another – now it seems that society is moving so that the only way we can interact with one another is via a screen. Does this worry you? Will the memory of your friends face always be of features cast in the light of a TV screen?
Only the other day I logged into Facebook to see two status updates – both sending messages to people who lived in the same house as the other! Get off your arses and go and talk face to face!!!!
Most of my work now is done over the internet – I speak daily with people on the other side of the planet (well – I type in a deeply frustrated manner to people on the other side of the planet) and high street shops are continuing to go to the wall because we increasingly do our shopping online. Public Houses are closing because we do our drinking alone in our houses.
Don’t get me wrong – I am totally anti-social and spend as little time as possible at parties, public houses or other social interaction events (unless with people that I know I have lots in common with and will find Something To Talk About) – my idea of a party is very much the traditional one that we Brits manage so well: of all the women in one room talking about hernia operations whilst the men sit in stony silence in the other room waiting for death/to go home (whichever seems more attractive at the time (on the subject of which – sport was invented purely so men would have something to talk to each other about, so it’s a bit of a shame that I have no interest whatsoever in sport))
But I think it’s a sad day indeed when we invite a large group of friends around to our homes, ask the question “so what shall we do” and answer “let’s just look at the telly”
Frankly – I could be doing that at home.