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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Even Better Than The Real Thing?

The other day I was in the mall with the family picking up a few essentials. As expected, the boys wanted to do two things while we were there: To eat at McDonald's and to go to the video game store. I was in a generous mood and granted them both wishes, which had me proclaimed "The best Dad in the World!" For at least the next ten minutes or so.

After the chicken and burgers and fries and cokes, and after making them wait (Hee!)while I picked up a couple of pairs of jeans at JC Penney that was all the way on the other side of the mall, we finally checked out the game store.

Now my boys have the GameCube, but that hasn't stopped them from wanting every OTHER game system available, not to mention every game every made.

But being in a generous mood, I decreed that each could get one thing, provided they spent their own money. By now my "Best Dad in the World" status was pretty secure for the rest of the evening.

The boys dove into the store and were quickly busy looking for what they wanted. I wandered in after them, casually looking at all the latest and greatest games and systems.

It was clear that the Rock Band and Guitar Hero games were the hot items of the moment. I was impressed to discover that for Guitar Hero only the original artists tracks are used, which is how it should be. I found the diversity of bands and styles that come with the game to be pretty comprehensive, from Nirvana and No Doubt to a host of dinosaur bands I refuse to acknowledge.

Further on, I noticed an entire display of accessories for these types of games. I saw guitars, cymbals with full stands, drum pads, microphones, drum sticks, and even a large drum petal presumably for a base drum.

Upon seeing all this I nearly laughed out loud. So much of the gear looked exactly like the real equipment, it occurred to me,that if these folks really want to play music so badly, why don't they just go out and by the REAL equipment? Given the price tags on some of the toys, they'd get a much better deal for their money on a real electric guitar.

It's understandable that one might want to have a virtual reality experience of fighting a war, or driving a race car or flying a jet fighter, as these activities are not easily experienced (or survived)by ordinary folks. But why go to all the trouble to simulate something that is readily done by regular people and is reasonably affordable? I compared it in my mind to having a virtual eating experience. Or maybe more like virtual sex. Give me the burger and the coed every time. Come to think of it, this is just like music pornography.

I wonder what will come from a generation of simulated musicians. Will all this semi-experience on guitar and drums actually inspire thousands of new artists in the next ten years? Or will it lead to hordes of tribute bands who actually play on computer game instruments? Will these kids grow up into teenagers and wake up one morning wanting a real guitar? Or will Guitar Hero champions turn out to be as sexy and charismatic as those they mimic? There might be a need soon for virtual groupie and virtual drug addict games...

I worry that too many kids will have been made to think it's so easy and become quickly disappointed to find out they actually have to work at it, and that the sounds they make in the beginning will be pretty lousy. And that they'll have to tune their gear and come up with their own ideas.

But all that sounds so 20th century.

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