December 04, 2007

Someone That Doesn't Like Rock Band

Link. The guitarist for Sleater-Kinney (a band whose name I have heard but know nothing else about) was given the opportunity to play Rock Band as a precursor to a possible promotion of the product. She didn't end up getting the promotional gig, but didn't seem to like the game anyway and has written up her thoughts on it for Slate. Though she definitely has an interesting point of view, she exemplifies for me every person who just doesn't understand the game.

It's an argument that I've heard a million times since Guitar Hero became popular: "Why not just learn to play an instrument?" Though she only touches on that point obliquely, the very basis of the article in comparing the game to being in a real life band rests on the assumption that the two things are even worth comparing. Nobody thinks to compare Splinter Cell to the reality of being a spy, or Gran Turismo to what it's like to be a real race car driver. Games are not a stepping stone to real world achievement. Some people might be inspired to take up the guitar after playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero and others may learn a thing or two about rhythm from playing the games, but that is beside the point. People play these games because it's fun to play them, particularly to play them together.

There's a snobbery that I find a little annoying and a little pitiful when people critique these games for not being "real" or for their "fakery". It's as if video games are fine when it's all weird plumbers in fantasy kingdoms but if they trod on your backyard, bringing most of the fun and hardly any of the hard work to the masses, they've somehow offended you personally. Moreover, the fun these masses enjoy is somehow less legitimate. Not every game is fun for every person, and that's fine. Some people, like Ms. Brownstein, don't even like video games, which is fine too. But Rock Band doesn't fail because it fails to provide the details of real life. It's fun for precisely that reason.


Unknown said...

I agree with everything you've said. As a drummer in a real rock band, and a drummer in Rock Band, I will say that the former is a lot more fun. But that doesn't take a thing away from the latter.

At it seems to me that the whole point of the game is to take some that very few people can do and re-imagine it in a form that anyone can do. That's valuable. Is it the same as being in a real rock band? Not remotely. But NHL08 doesn't have much in common with playing ice hockey, either. I simply don't see that as a problem.

LameAim said...

I have taken particular note that the people who usually go with the "why don't you just learn to play a real instrument" argument are rarely gamers themselves.