Like Guitar Hero, Only Better

Those who know me well know I love Guitar Hero (and Guitar Hero II), and that I pretty much rock at it. Sure, it’s no replacement for playing a “real” guitar (which I do plenty as well, don’t worry), but Guitar Hero is revolutionary because it allows everyone to rock out in a way previously reserved for those who spent years in the proverbial woodshed, hacking away at frets and downloading TABs and listening to the greats.

“Oh, I’m not musically inclined,” was, for years, the default response from all but the few who somehow managed to avoid being forced into oboe lessons during childhood and found music on their own and decided to make it.

With Guitar Hero, this answer died forever.

Guitar Hero put an instrument in the arms of regular folks the world over, and taught them not how create music, but that they were allowed to make music. The point of it, and games like it, is that music is not just for “musicians,” but property of the entire human race. It is hard to fail miserably, and even harder not to have a good time. I’ve no doubt that more than a few folks who picked up the 5-buttoned controller and slashed their way through “Bark at the Moon” have since saved up their allowances, bought a full-sized Gibson SG and are now slaves to the primal urge to make a lot of noise.

Guitar Hero was and is a revolutionary product because at its core is a message of sharing - a communion of energy, passion, joy - of singing together, creating memories, and laughing hysterically when you knock a ton of shit off the table because you were getting maybe a little too into it (no way!).

And now, the inevitable has happened. The awesomeness that is Guitar Hero just got a whole lot better. Announced today in USA Today is another game by the same happy crew of developers that will again bring music to the masses, and with an even greater focus on community. It is called Rock Band, and true to its title, the game (to be released in time for Christmas on the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3) is centered around one of the most tight-knit of all groups in society - a band.

The power of these two gaming systems (and the innovation of the Red Octane/Harmonix team along with their recent MTV partnership) has led to what will by all accounts be an awesome and immersive multi-instrumental experience. You can play guitar, bass, drums, and even sing - and you can do this all with three other friends at the same time. A full band in your living room. And you don’t even have to stand up (though I highly recommend it).

It gets even cooler - you can have a band with musicians all over the world, using the online connectivity of these gaming consoles. And for the first time in the franchise, all of the music in the game will be provided by the original artists (thanks to MTV, naturally), rather than as cover versions. There will also be downloadable tracks that will enable you to extend the replay value of the game much further by adding a ton of content than can’t fit on a disc.

Ultimately, though, this game will do something few things do - which is bring people together to participate in the creation of artistic work and inspire them to expand that creativity in new and untested ways. And that is what gets me so excited about it.

Guitar Hero (or Rock Band) won’t teach you how to play the guitar (though it might improve your rhythm and hand-eye coordination). The lesson they teach is much greater than that.

These games teach us that it is okay to create art. That it is possible to create art. That it is human to create art.

And most of all, that it is fun as hell.