Guitar Zero

This weekend I went down to Richmond to visit with my friend Miles. My friend Miles has two children birthed into this world by his wife Cat. They are the most awesome, beautiful amazing children in the whole of the universe as far as I am concerned and arguing otherwise will get you nowhere. This is very important because even though they are children and do the most effortlessly annoying things that children do (like show you everything in the house and tell the most long winded story about it) I love hanging out with them and playing games and coloring and all the other things that kids do.

My buddy Miles, like many parents of his age and generation allows his kids to play the video games. Now, I am not sure how I feel about kids playing video games, but then I am not certain my feelings on my own video game playing which waxes and wanes in accordance to my stress, depression and braind dead levels. So you know, if the kids want to play and the parents are cool, I am no longer going to comment on them in a negative manner. Except to explore an odd phenomenon. This phenomenon is called Guitar Hero.

I had played Guitar Hero, shortly, once in an EB games to see what the whole thing was all about. I can say with absolution that I murdered the song Living After Midnight, a classic Judas Priest song that I love dearly. It was quite ammused and angry at this whole experience. After all, on the guitar, Living After Midnight is a series of power chords at a mid tempo beat that any semi-interested guitar player should manage with ease. It’s the type of song I learn from time to time to ammuse my self. That I could not keep up with an odd machine, smashing buttons on a plastic guitar was maddening. I can play the guitar. I mean not like Steve Vai or Kerry King, but Kurt Cobain had very little on me in the technique department.

Anyway, I wrote the whole thing off until this weekend. Being the awesome odd friend of people with kids though, I decided to put my own disgust with the world aside and jam out with the mini-Miles doe eyeing me from below. For the next hour I continued to mash out buttons on the odd guitar shaped controller, generally laughing and adding my own noisy parts during the breakdowns. It was fun, I even woke up the next day and played some more.

What bothered me about it though was that, these kids, ages five and six knew all these very old, very bad, very annoying, very borrowed from songs from the 80’s and 90’s (and even some from the late 70’s) by heart. They were able to mimic on these plastic guitar, something like music. But it was not nearly like making music at all. But what really bothers me is we are going to bring up another generation of kids listening to the shitty radio music of the past and offer them nothing of their own. In fact, they are mearly going to mimick this brilliantly terrible music ad-nauseum on these games that give them no option to make their own sounds, which while not terribly organic, would at least be a start. While I still beleive in music made from instruments more then computers, at least a computer program can be manipulated, broken, fixed and modified for the sake of creation. Video Games offer little in the way of creativity and imagination. And you certainly are not offered the ability to modify the software, no matter what you do to the hardware.

I thought about all of this on the drive home while I listened to Douglas Adams. I could not help but wonder what he would think of the whole Guitar Hero phenomenon. After all he was a giant fan of technology (and a giant fan of making fun of it) and music. What would he make of all this button mashing that some how feigns our most popular (and oddly simple) rock songs? It makes everyone a “ROCK STAR” or the ubiquitous “Guitar Hero” it suggests. You don’t even have to get all the notes correct, and despite their being more then five notes that make up the typical guitar, there are after all only five buttons and a crappy wammy bar to pump up the electricity, which with real guitars, electricity ussually does it self.

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