Video Games Aren't So Bad

March 7, 2011
The era of music in the early 1900s through the early 2000s has been almost forgotten nowadays but video games, believe it or not, have been trying to revive those classic hits in the lives of youth around the nation. Before the existence of music video games, older people of the population of America and other countries have stereotyped video games as violent, brainwashing, and pointless machines that just mess with the minds of today’s youth for the worst. But that’s not all true; some video games, for example the new era of music games, actually teach our youth about music that their parents grew up listening to, introduces them to new artists that they’ve never heard of, and actually teach them the fundamentals of instruments and music theory. I’m here to tell you that video games aren’t actually as bad as they say.

In the early 2000s, the age of Grunge, that included bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, had ended with a bang; the new age of music had rolled in its wake and took over the new generation of children around the globe. Along with this new type of music, came a new video game that was a totally original idea brought out by the minds of Activison and Harmonix Gaming Companies: Guitar Hero. When word of this product came out, kids from almost every state went out and bought this new and exciting game; the ability of feeling like you are playing an instrument must’ve been something that caught their eye. From then on, the franchise of Guitar Hero has been one of the biggest selling video games in the world; but why exactly? Was it only the façade of feeling like a rock star? Or was it the music itself that was introduced to the children through this electronic advancement? In my opinion, the only reason Guitar Hero took off the way it did was because of the music; without the music, what would Guitar Hero be? A game filled with all the new stuff that we hear all the time on the radio and through our MP3 players? Activision took the right route and added all the classic songs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s to bring a new, but nostalgic, type of music to an unknowing generation. But then the inevitable happened: Kids began playing these plastic instruments more than a real instrument! It defeated the whole purpose of the game to convince children to learn an instrument and be a true rock star rather than just get to Expert level in the first four months of having the game.

In 2006, Activision had by then released a series of four Guitar Hero games: Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero: Rock the 80s, and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock which is still Guitar Hero’s best game since the franchise released. Fed up with the way Activison was treating them, its partner company Harmonix broke away from all the business of Activision and Guitar Hero and branched off to form one of the best things to ever happen to this world since the iPod: Rock Band. I fell victim, myself, to Rock Band’s lure; me being a vocalist and having the ability to actually sing on that game made me go out and buy it immediately. It came with drums, guitar, and vocals and had its own unique setlist of classic rock, grunge, metal, and so much more that no one could ever think of putting into one video game. But a lot of people took this whole creation of Rock Band into consideration and decided that they were copying Guitar Hero’s style, which was not true. With both gaming companies competing equally strong, how could you decide who wins and who doesn’t? Well, it was all really decided for me and most of the youth of our new generation in 2008 when the sequel to Rock Band came out it blew Activision out of the water. Rock Band 2 introduced a new style of playing that also taught you even more about artists, brought the idea of learning how to play drums, and Harmonix developed their own equipment much better than they had in their first run through of the Rock Band franchise. I believe that this was the start of a new era of music that was also the old era of music back when our parents and their parents were younger. It was the revival of rock music.

As years passed and more kids around the world were getting Rock Band and the new installments of Guitar Hero, parents thought that this wasn’t helping the youth at all, including my own parents who would constantly say, “As much time as you spend on this game, you could be learning an actual instrument.” That was the official motto for music games as it was once again stereotyped into a brainwashing and pointless video game. Even important gaming critics stated that the music game genre would eventually fade out in the next two years; some believed that to be true, but it was in 2009 that changed it all. The stereotype was broken and a phenomenal band was brought back into the lives of adults, children, and elders all around the nation. Harmonix thought about the idea that Activision had with their Guitar Hero games about giving a single band their own game. Activision had released games such as Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Guitar Hero: Metallica, but they never really received that much recognition. So, with that in mind, Harmonix took stride and brought in Dhani Harrison, the son of famed musician George Harrison of the Beatles, to assist them in building one of the most remarkable games out in many years: The Beatles: Rock Band.

While Activision was sitting around doling out more video games that got worse and worse over the years, Rock Band worked on their first single band game for three years, when Rock Band one had first come out. When it was released, the outcome was impeccable; everyone was excited to hear music by the Beatles and wondered how it was going to look. And without fail, The Beatles: Rock Band won Best Music Video Game at the Video Game Awards on Spike TV, blowing the Guitar Hero installment out of the water. Activision was finally losing due to Harmonix’ clever idea on bringing one of the most influential bands back to life in the 2000s from the 1960s and putting it in a game that would make the new generation of children excited and more likely to experience the classic a lot more than they had before the creation of music games in general. When I heard about the Beatles: Rock Band I was ecstatic. I never really listened to the Beatles that much before, but the idea of a game dedicated to the Beatles was interesting to me and I got it. It changed my whole perspective on music itself and I realized that there was more out there than just Rap, Hip-Hop, and new rock or pop. There was classic music that was pushed aside as old so therefore bringing it back gave a whole new view for everyone on the subject. But the big seller and game that persuaded kids to buy Harmonix’ product came from the mind of, once again, Dhani Harrison, when he said, “I want to teach the new generation of youth about music through this game. They will learn guitar, bass, drums, and how to sing just by playing the game like they normally would. We need to include this in Rock Band 3.”

Finally, as the music game genre began to fade as the critics had said two years ago, Harmonix finally announced their new installment of Rock Band games (with much disappointment with Green Day: Rock Band and Lego: Rock Band) to the public; with the new 83 song setlist, the music game community was excited to hear the Rock Band 3 would actually teach the gamers about the instruments: Chords, arpeggios, and much more for guitar and bass, when and where to hit the cymbals and toms for drums, and what notes and harmonies to hit for vocals. They even introduced keyboard to the mix, teaching note names, chords, and ways to maneuver within notes and chords for a classic collage for a song. It was a brilliant idea, but would it really make the kids want to go out and buy the game? Some kids stated that they’d rather play a game than learn an instrument; that was the point of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But others stated it’d be a great opportunity to become good at something without all the hours of practice. Rock Band 3 was released and it won multiple awards for its great prestige and music setlist. The guitars, made by the company MadCatz and Fender, were released shortly after and the new generation of kids, who didn’t want to learn an actual instrument before, were starting to learn an instrument for their own benefit. I, personally, did not get the guitar, but I did get the keyboard and it convinced me that video games actually do help teach you something through fun and work. I am currently learning how to play the drums and piano through the Rock Band gaming system, and its helped me greatly; I can play songs by John Lennon and Queen now, and you can too if you try hard enough on a game. Video games really do something instead of teaching you about violence, sex, and drugs or war. It teaches you music, education, and new lifestyle choices just by playing a few songs with a ‘plastic’ instrument.

In conclusion, music video games are bringing back the nostalgic days of my parents’ music years. The music of Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and many more fill my room and my house every day and I’ve been inspired to learn more and more instruments through this. This paper may seem as more of a documentary, but what’s more convincing than a few facts that back up my simple statement: Video Games Aren’t So Bad.

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