Thursday, 27 November 2008

Play (Virtually) Anything

I saw an episode of the excellent South Park recently. It was called 'Guitar Queer-O' and clearly based on the PlayStation game that has recently grabbed the public's attention. (Of course, Guitar Hero has also grabbed the attention of the music industry as they've been positively queueing up to get the music from various bands included in the next version. The royalties would probably get Woolworth's out of the red. They never miss a trick...)
Anyway, there was one point in the episode which I found really resonant; Randy Marsh (Stan's dad) comes home to find the boys playing Guitar Hero and asks his wife if they've learnt to play guitar. She tells him what goes on in the game and he returns to the living room to ask the boys if they'd like him to show them how to really play the song they'd been 'playing' on screen ('Carry On Wayward Son' by Kansas). He gets out an amp and a Les Paul and begins to play the song for real. Afterwards he says to the boys, 'I can actually play a lot of these songs on guitar. Do you want me to show you how?' Cartman replies... 'That's gay, Mr Marsh...' and they return to the virtual world of cheering audiences and guitar riffs at the press of a button.
Now you might think that I'm about to make some sort of cosmic point here, but I'm not. Well, not really... It's just that I was nearly in exactly the same situation about a year ago. My sons apparently conspired to buy me Guitar Hero for my birthday, the only thing stopping them was... well, I could really play, so what was the point? But I guess I'm not opposed to the idea that guitar superstardom should be available to everyone as part of a video game - although I do have issues with the Wii equivalent because it sounds bloody awful! I might allow myself a slight concern that playing the guitar might just be misconstrued as being 'easy' and I do think that if you're willing to go so far, why not go the whole way and learn for real...
Oh, I said I wasn't going to make any points, didn't I? Sorry. It's hard...
Still, I expect that common sense will click in at some point and people will realise that learning to press some coloured buttons on a plastic guitar isn't really playing. I mean, just because I've successfully completed the first two Halo games doesn't really qualify me for real time intergalactic combat, now does it?

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