guitar hero ii

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    Gaming and Music-Making

    Mike Lawson | August 14, 2007

    NPD, a consumer market research group, reports video game sales in 2006 reached a new high of $12.5 billion, up19 percent from 2005. In the top 10 titles, the latest interactive sensation, Guitar Hero II, was the fifth-best-selling software game (featuring our very own editor/musicians, Christian Wissmuller and Eliahu Sussman), selling a staggering 1.3 million units!

    According to its Web site, Harmonix Music, developers of Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II and the forthcoming Rock Band, was founded "to create new ways for non-musicians to experience the unique joy that comes from making music." Although we know that far too many students spend an inordinate amount of time on video games, there are two positive questions that come to mind regarding Guitar Hero II: "Does it actually provide some musical benefit?" and, "Are non-musicians encouraged to go to the next step and learn a real instrument?"

    Although the game's controller, a plastic-bodied guitar without strings, is by no means a real instrument, there are some musically oriented functions that are intrinsic within the game. The melody portion of the game is very simplistic and is handled by a few plastic buttons on neck of the guitar. However, the rhythmic aspects are significantly more complex and are at the heart of the success for the Guitar Hero II player. If you are able to tap the right button and "strum and hold" the right hand at precisely the right time, then you activate the right note in the music and gain points. Although this is a very different method of reading rhythms than in standard notation, the result is similar. The visual representation that shows how long or short to hold the note is presented on the video screen with circles and bars that are of a certain length, which could be related to whole notes, half notes, and so on. Successful players of the game, who reach the advanced level, must be quite accurate with their rhythm in order to gain a high score.

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