I grew up during the 8-bit era of video gaming, i.e. Pong and Pac-Man. At first all the games were very repetitive and there was not a lot of story there. My childhood gaming console was the Atari 2600. But my little brother is six years younger. Sometime around 1990 he got his first NES. Remember Super Mario Brothers? Mario is one of the most recognizable icons of our time, and is still at the helm of Nintendo’s flagship. But you know what? In 20 years of Mario Bro’s I’ve never heard one complaint that playing the video game is nothing like what real plumbers do. Nor did Indie car drives complain about Pole Position. There was even an Atari commercial in the 80’s starring Pete Rose, despite the fact that Atari’s baseball game looked awful in every way. They were games, it wasn’t real, and we didn’t care.
Since the release of Guitar Hero there has been a growing number of haters complaining that playing video games is not playing guitar. My first argument was “DUH! So?” But the commercial success of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series have made the idea of playing in a garage band cool again for a whole new generation of youth. I don’t see what there is to complain about if guitar gods are worship by kids who imitate them, and certainly if they go from playing the game to taking real lessons. And then…
Enter Rock Band 3. The game developers and Fender Musical Inst. Corp. have worked together to produce a working electric guitar that functions as the game controller. They have taken an actual Fender Squier Strat and made it interactive with the video game. Sensors in the neck of the guitar detect your hand movements in real time. You can then unplug from the game and into a real amp. Game developers, in combination with Fender, have responded to the critism that Rock Band is nothing like playing a real instrument. Now you will be able to play the game with a real instrument, and even start learning to play with the game. Playing the Rock Band drum was already kind of like playing the drums, and that is about to get even more so as well.
BUT… some people you can’t make happy. Die hard fans of the Stratocaster are whining about how they took a real guitar and made it a game controller. Come on. The Squier guitar is a real Strat, but not really. Squier Strat by Fender retails for less than $200 and is made in either China, Korea or Indonesia. An American made Fender Strat doesn’t retail for less than $1,000 and the ones with names on them (like Eric Clapton) sell for almost $3,000. I have a Squier Strat, I’m not knocking them. It’s a really good cheap guitar. My point? If some kid has never owned/played a guitar, then buying Rock Band 3 is both a cool move as a gamer and a first step in putting a real, 6-string electric guitar in his hands. It’s not like they chopped open Hendrix’s Fender and shoved a Wii remote into the back of it.