Rock Band's Moving Goalpost

I’m an unapologetic, completely infatuated fan of Rock Band. Yet, the announcement of Rock Band 3 gave me a bit of the red ass. What could they really do that couldn’t be pulled off in an update/add-on pack and save me 100-odd Falquan Fun-Bucks? Keyboards sound like fun, but how that possibly work.

Then I saw the gameplay video from E3. Intriguing. Still, the concept of vocal harmonies and backup singers was far more interesting.

Then I heard this concept for the new guitar controller. For those uninitiated, it is supposed to contain enough button combinations to simulate a fretboard accurately enough that one will (in Pro mode) be forming accurate chord patterns on the controller, thus effectively learning the actual chords needed to play the song on a real axe.

If they pull this off, not only is Harmonix perhaps the greatest game studio of all time, but they’ve set the bar so high for every other game in the world that it’s almost frightning. Of course, I would hope that Rockstar would stop short of actually including a Glock controller and half a dozen loosies in their next Grand Theft Auto game.

Now, I’ve always wanted to learn the guitar, so this is of particular interest to me. First off, I’ve tried learning instruments before. And I inevitably fell off the wagon when it came to practicing, and since most of practice is mind-numbing repetition, I quickly lost interest when something shiny floated by.So the fact that they’ve created a way to make practicing “fun” seems like win-frickin-win, baby.

“And of course, with the birth of the artist came the inevitable afterbirth… the critic.” (stolen with credit)

Just like when Guitar Hero/Rock Band first hit the shelves, immediately those who can’t stand children on their lawns decide that they are threatened in some way by people having a great time jamming on plastic instruments. Previously it was, “[it’s not like playing a real guitar, why not just learn]?” Now that Harmonix has (supposedly) found a way to do exactly that, it’s still not good enough.

So let’s jump in our Hypothetical Machine and say this works, and Rock Band 3 can actually teach us how to play real instruments. If/when I melt your face, and you ask me where I learned to play, and I say Rock Band, are we going to have this same bullshit argument of, “you didn’t really learn how to play!”? Just because a video game was the catalyst to get me interested in playing music by being completely intimidating about it shouldn’t mean my current ability is any less.

At the same time, I’m not saying playing a rousing round of Phoenix Wright is going to teach you to be a lawyer, I get it. But if after you’ve played the game and then taken the skill to the next level, who cares what got you started — wouldn’t it be a lot more fun to just rock out together and combine creative efforts rather than complain that the only real artist is the one who learned the old-fashioned way?

I’d like to return to my previous point of moving goalposts, because I just love a good phallusy. I mean fallacy. Someone came up with a way to legitimately teach the basics of music and rhythm (and guitar). Now that we can learn from the game, it’s still not good enough. Come on, this is basic logic!

And frankly, what is the appropriate way to learn music, exactly? We all interpret music differently. We all hear it, sing it, play it differently. What’s the difference if I learned it while shooting up heroin in a basement on a urine soaked mattress, or on my XBOX in my parents’ living room when I’m 35? Track marks are what make a person who plays music an artist?

Now get off my lawn. I’ve Green Day to play.