February 5, 2008

To Rock (Band) or Not) (con)

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Oy gevalt, Rock Band and Guitar Hero! Cut me a break, will ya? Your ubiquity makes me wild (but not in a good way). I can’t pinpoint the exact reason as to why these new games are causing such a hubbub, but I’ll tell you: I don’t go for them. Realizing that I may come off as too nostalgic or sentimental, I’ll now ask one question: what happened to starting real, honest-to-goodness bands? Frankly, is it such a big to-do to learn the damn instruments?
Well, maybe to most it is. I took an informal straw poll recently, asking a few of my friends why they do or don’t enjoy this Guitar Hero preponderance. The debate didn’t get too heated (almost all sided with the game), but no matter: I came to a great epiphany. Maybe you’ve already realized this — but those who prefer the games generally blame their own sloth. “If I had enough time,” says one, “I would definitely learn to play the instruments. But it’s, like, why work so hard? In the game, all you have to do is push some buttons … Rock Band is just convenient.” Think of it this way, though: how much more fun and satisfying would it be if you didn’t live vicariously and actually played those songs live at local gigs with your (real) band?
But listen, before you jump down my throat, I know I’m biased. I’ve been playing guitar for eight years now and I don’t know if you’ve heard me, but I’m pretty good. Just kidding, not really. But in all honesty, what more are you gaining by learning the most effective button combination on Guitar Hero than by learning power chords on a cheap-o student guitar?
In addition, you have to buy all this extra crap for Rock Band for it to work at tip-top shape. What’s with that? Already averaging around $170 depending on the console, the game claims to be more fun if you buy extra songs. Look up “highway robbery” in any dictionary. A little icon of Rock Band will appear next to it, guaranteed.
So let’s keep the bottom line the bottom line: the lifelong return of learning an instrument is in inverse proportion to cost, whereas the return of enjoying Rock Band is in positive proportion to cost. In real-people terms, this means that learning an instrument is the (relatively cheap) satisfying gift that keeps on giving, but Rock Band is the über-expensive whimsy fantasy that is only fun until the next console is released.