Two of my favourite things in life are music and video games, so when these mediums combined together on a take-home console I was overjoyed, as were my peers, but at what possible future cost? Music and technology have walked together hand in hand for some time, from instrument design to sound quality via a medium such as the Mp3 player and speakers, and without each other music in our world today would be quite different.
The progressiveness of the music and gaming connection has continued to turn over at a faster rate. From the bleeps and whirs of early gaming machines to full movie-like scores to accompany the user through their desired gaming experience. This, coupled with ergonomic and user friendliness, has seen gaming become a solid part of our contemporary lifestyle. Consequently, such games have taken in revenue up there with successful movies and bands, as well as causing another crossover of games made for movies and vice versa, but that story another time.
The two worlds were now able to create a fusion and cross boundaries with the popular music concept of Karaoke fused with a video game point system. Initially, a microphone plugged into a Playstation containing the Singstar series of video games began to revolutionize parties, events and family environments to a new entertainment level. People would come out of their shell and belt out favourites from popular artists such as Madonna, The Rolling Stones and Queen and all in the safety of our own living room. The popularity and ease of use (if you didn’t know the words you could just hum in tune to play), gave the series immediate success and numerous titles followed to cover its unbiased demographic with the most recent title being a dedication to 70’s icons ABBA. Whether critical audience member or budding high score singer it was this concept that would further the ideas between the fusion of games and music.
That was, however, what seemed like a decade ago in 2004. Here now in the glorious future of 2009 we can sing along with a larger variety of songs, and additionally play surrogate instruments to accompany the actual songs. With the inclusion of games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, we are now able to live vicariously through rock songwriters and choose our weapon of musical destruction with choices of guitar, bass, drums or your own vox (vocals). By taking the complexity of a real instrument down to mere nuts and bolts, even the most musically inept user can sound like a rock god. For example, the life-sized guitar-shaped controller (that sits around your neck for added realism) is manipulated by 5 different coloured buttons, a ‘strum’ button and whammy bar. It is within this design and musical content that the success of these gaming products has been so well received. In an almost hypnotizing display, indicators show the player when to hit the appropriate button to accompany the song, subsequently showing your success at the end of the song with “YOU ROCK!!!”, or your demise part way through with “YOU SUCK!!!”
This begs further questioning about the future of both industries as now kids seem more likely to pick up a video game than an actual instrument, and as a result numerous outlooks are possible. Back in my day I would escape into the world of video games by controlling a pizza pie (sans a slice) around a maze of edible ‘dots’ while being chased by ghosts (a.k.a. Pacman), or challenge myself by attempting to make ‘lines’ from various shaped blocks that fell from the sky (a.k.a. Tetris). Accompanying these were the sounds of munching on dots (which actually sounded more like a frogs ‘ribbit’), and a compelling Russian tune that would grow in intensity as it got faster. These will never escape my memory. With this in mind, the advancement finds me curious to the ongoing social experiment at hand, with humanity as the guinea pigs. Back then, if given the same games as today, would my young inquisitive mind been more likely to pick up a real guitar, or play a drum set, or perhaps want to sing? If the end result was the same after practice, then most likely, or would I remain a subject of this easily distracted environment and want the immediate gratification as a video game ‘muso’ (musician)?
Similarly, the transition from gamer to musician has given people on either side of the industry mixed ideas about the combination. Although the games emulate the actual songs the artists themselves find the transition difficult to manage due to their musical knowledge base on an actual instrument. For example, after first playing the games Trent Resnor from the band Rage Against The Machine notes “This is the first time I’ve had an 11 year old beat me… at my OWN song!” Likewise in reverse, a solid gamer would undoubtedly find it hard to pick up a real guitar and perform as he or she has just prior on the game.
So, will this future of music lead toward the actual demise of the professional musicianship? Or, will it further fuel the desire of expression between young and old alike to actually invest in a relationship with one if not many chosen instruments. Herein lies the dilemma of the more persuasive virtual future and our current societal lower attention span that develops needs of instant gratification. Similarly, will games take over concerts and have ‘professional gamers’ onstage showing how good they really are at pressing buttons via someone elses music? Or will the games evolve so much that you can assemble a thirty piece orchestra with your friends to accompany an evening event for example a wedding. As with the future, limits are only what we put on them and if there are none then these and many other ideas will certainly flourish, lets just hope that the creativity will be at the foremost part so people can continue to communicate with the world through their own preferred medium.
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