Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Guitar Hero III is to Guitar as Rachael Ray is to Cooking

Last week I played Guitar Hero III at a friend's house for the first time. I donned the tiny, plastic-guitar-controller-thingee with five rainbow buttons and a midget whammy bar. After a few minutes I was able to play along with Pat Benatar. It was fun. It was Simon meets Tetris backed by the Sex Pistols. But there was something else here. This game is wildly popular. They are predicting close to 8 million copies of this version alone selling by the end of 2007.

This game is to Guitar as Rachael Ray is to food. Rachael reaches millions of people and exposes them to her style of cooking. Her concept of 30 minute meals made her famous and very popular to the point that she has her own books, multiple TV shows, magazine and is the spokesperson for Dunkin Donuts. People are always looking for a faster and easier way to accomplish things that typically take time and skill. I think Anthony Bourdain really nailed how I feel about Rachael Ray on Michael Ruhlman's blog last February:

"Complain all you want. It's like railing against the pounding surf. She only grows stronger and more powerful. Her ear-shattering tones louder and louder. We KNOW she can't cook. She shrewdly tells us so. So...what is she selling us? Really? She's selling us satisfaction, the smug reassurance that mediocrity is quite enough. She's a friendly, familiar face who appears regularly on our screens to tell us that "Even your dumb, lazy ass can cook this!" Wallowing in your own crapulence on your Cheeto-littered couch you watch her and think, "Hell…I could do that. I ain't gonna…but I could--if I wanted! Where the saintly Julia Child sought to raise expectations, to enlighten us, make us better--teach us--and in fact, did, Rachael uses her strange and terrible powers to narcotize her public with her hypnotic mantra of, "You're doing just fine. You don't even have to chop an onion--you can buy it already chopped. Aspire to nothing…Just sit there. Have another Triscuit...Sleep...sleep..."

I'm not a Rachael Ray or Guitar Hero hate-a. There are communities that have sprouted up online that are devoted to sharing in their intense dislike of Rachael. Messipes, Retchipes, Raynus, Rayturd, Raytard, EVOOMGSTFU are all terms used freely on these sites. While Rachael Ray and Guitar Hero may be bringing mediocrity to the masses, there is a silver lining. They expose people to things that they may not have had interest in without them.

One thing jumped out at me about Guitar Hero III: Time. It takes a helluva lot more than 30 minutes to master these songs at expert level. It probably takes longer than it would to learn an actual song on an actual guitar. Check out this guy and the social setting in what looks like a dorm room:


College video: http://youtube.com/watch?v=-9ao_vOsZkg

He's got all the strumming, fret button chords and durations memorized. He's uncovered all the secrets the game has hidden for him. Playing the real guitar has secrets to uncover as well. Power chords, blues notes, artificial harmonics, two-hand tapping, arpeggios, a slow vibrato, scales, harmonic dive-bombs with the whammy bar, delay effects, custom tunings, volume swells, wah-wah, glass slide and the Frampton talkbox sound all await those who invest in playing a real electric guitar. Check out this guitar shredder on YouTube showing off a lot of these secrets:


Real Guitar Shredding: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNZihxUenUI

So what does all the time invested get you on Guitar Hero? South Park gave their opinion a couple months back:


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South Park clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq6-QbbRD4

Ultimately, GHIII is really all about marketing to kids. That gets a bit lost in all the gaming aspects of it. Johnny Rotten said it best at the GHIII launch:


"It weren't teaching you how to be a Rock Star – It was teaching you how NOT to be a rock star. How not to be an asshole in your life and how not to seek fame & fortune because the whole fucking thing is a joke…And always remember, get'em when they're young."

Johnny Rotten at the GHIII launch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPAaO2q-Phg

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