Music has been an important part of my life since I was a little kid. I was always in band and my mother taught piano lessons. During elementary school I played a lot of different instruments while I tried to find the right fit. I started with the trombone, tuba, and clarinet before settling with the saxophone. I still have a saxophone and I follow Kenny G on twitter. When video games and music collided I was hooked. I got my start with Guitar Hero II. I remember the day it came out I rushed to the store and picked up a copy of the game for Xbox 360 with a new plastic guitar controller. I fired up the game and began the journey that I am still on today.
That first night was filled with music. I played most of the songs on Easy or Medium difficulty to get a feel for the mechanics of the game and really practice my rhythm and timing. Back then the guitar controllers clicked loudly every time you strummed the strum bar, so my parents were not very happy when I decided to play until fairly late in the evening. The next day I woke up early and started playing again. My mother walked into my room and asked if I had every gone to sleep last night. I was hooked on playing music with a plastic guitar controller.
Eventually I made my way up to expert for a majority of the songs, but never took the time to practice the most difficult ones. I still can’t play Through the Fire and Flames and some of the other more challenging additions to the game. However, later that same year Rock Band would be released and revolutionize the plastic instrument genre. I knew the release date and went to the store, but unfortunately my local Walmart was out of stock for the Xbox 360 version. That weekend I convinced my parents to go to our local mall and find a copy of the game. Of course I was after the full band box with the drum set, guitar, and microphone. You could still use your old Guitar Hero II controller so I would have a lot of options when it came time to play.
I found a copy of the game and invited all my friends over to check it out. We played for hours. I sang, I drummed, I strummed, and I had a blast. My skills from Guitar Hero II transferred over to this new game, so I could hit the ground running while playing my songs on Expert and Hard. Rock Band would enter our gaming rotation the same way that Wii Sports and Mario Party 8 had before it. It was a great casual game to play with friends. It was also cooperative, so that when I succeeded – we all succeeded. Playing Rock Band at the expert level was something I was known for, people were actually impressed that I could play the songs. My friends and I even entered a local Rock Band tournament and won! That is up there with one of my proudest gaming memories. While playing a plastic instrument is not the same as a real one, it is a rather difficult skill and I still watch videos of people playing custom songs and am wowed.
Eventually the hype for plastic instruments died down and we hit a low period for the music genre. Rock Band 3 was great and included a keyboard and pro piano arrangements, but it wasn’t the same. I played Guitar Hero Live which changed the arrangement of buttons on the controller, but he controller wasn’t built very well and I did not enjoy the experience very much. I recently got my hands on Rock Band 4 and have loved going back through some of my favorite downloaded songs.
Much of my musical library is filled with songs from Rock Band and Guitar Hero. I gained a deep appreciation of classic rock bands like Boston, The Who, and Rush. Playing through the entire Beatles catalogue in a video game is an experience that I will cherish for a long time. I also started to see through the musical simplicity of early 2000’s pop punk bands. My favorite band has always been Weezer and I still get excited playing their tracks in the game. I even have my own Fender Stratocaster that I am still trying to learn how to play.
Music and video games go so well together because of the way sound can color an experience. I almost always listen to the original game soundtracks when playing games because it helps with the immersion. But the Rock Band series will always have the best video game soundtrack!
Tomorrow we discuss another Xbox 360 classic, Crackdown.
Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks