“The guitar was my weapon, my shield to hide behind.”
Are You Ready To Rock?!
Way back in 2005 a game launched that is still bringing me joy to this day, that game was Guitar Hero. A rhythm music game like the old dance mat games except this time you were using your fingers and you weren’t using a mat, you used one of these bad boys.
I know I looked absolutely ridiculous playing these games with a small (smaller than regular models anyway) plastic guitar strapped around my neck but I simply didn’t care, I felt like a rock god!
If you aren’t familiar with these games then here is a gameplay demonstration taken from Guitar Hero 3.
Basically, different coloured blips corresponding to the buttons on the guitar come towards you on a track at you and you have to press them and strum at the right time to play the song. Simple but brilliant.
The game has 4 difficulty settings: Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert. Easy uses only the first three buttons, Medium uses four and both Hard and Expert use all five. Expert requires you to play every note and can be brutal on some songs. Looking at you Through the Fire and Flames.
Having been told by my music teacher that I had “Bassist” fingers (to fat 😦 ) and he wouldn’t waste his time trying to teach me guitar this game was a great blessing to my teenage Rock Star wishes. Me and my cousin would play this practically every Friday night for a good couple of years and unsurprisingly I got pretty good at the game over time. If I had spent as much time learning real guitar as I have spent playing these games I would be better than the ghost of Hendrix by now.
Playing this game on my own in my room for many hours (I was a lonely teenager), it wasn’t long until I reached Hard difficulty and shot passed my cousin in skill which led to one of the greatest things anyone has ever said to me.
“I can’t even begin to imagine the state of your cock”
My Cousin, 2006~
Guitar Hero 2 and Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s shortly followed and I kept playing and even discovered some new bands along the way that I still love to this day. Unfortunately it was after these games that Harmonix no longer developed the Guitar Hero games and as much as I still enjoyed Guitar Hero 3, the series was starting to lose steam. Even more recently the Guitar Hero TV servers were shut down (1st December, 2018) and it looks like the series may finally be dead. But let’s head back to 2007 and to happier more awesome times when this first hit our screens.
Harmonix might not have been in charge of Guitar Hero any more but that didn’t mean they were done with the plastic instruments just yet and in November 2007 we got the first Rock Band game. Rock Band didn’t just have plastic guitars but a whole bands worth of parent annoying plastic instruments. You thought giving a kid a noisy toy was bad? You should’ve heard me and my friends on this every weekend.
This is absolutely true though some may find hard to believe, Rock Band is the reason I bought my Xbox 360 and strangely enough in 2017 I bought my Xbox One to play Rock Band 4. I decided to upgrade to the 360 over the Playstation 2 version for one major reason, the inclusion of downloadable songs. Not only did the disc have 67 songs on it but you could download more for £2~ each, I was a very happy angsty teenager.
Rock Band was a great party game to bust out when you had mates around. People even chose it over Smash Brothers some nights which trust me, is a big deal to nerdy teenagers. Then with the launch of Rock Band 2, Harmonix revealed their killer app. You could export the songs on the disc of the first game to play those songs on the new release, something Guitar Hero fans like myself often dreamt of. Rock Band 2 launched with 84 so with just the songs from the first one and no DLC purchases you were approaching 150~ songs (some of the songs couldn’t transfer due to legal reasons).
And then the games just kept coming. There was an AC/DC track pack disc, Green Day got their own game, as did The Beatles, there was an arcade like release called Blitz and more track packs than is worth listing here. But perhaps most bizarre of all, there was a Lego Rock Band game and no, I am not joking.
So before Rock Band 3 even launched you were looking at a library of a few hundred songs, it was amazing. But sadly, the rhythm game genre couldn’t stay on top forever and after the launch of Rock Band 3 (with its ill-advised Keyboard/Piano accessory) general interest in the games seemed to wane but I kept on playing.
After (almost) finishing university I pretty much forgot about Rock Band as me and my partner moved around trying to find a place to settle. I still had all the gear, games and my Xbox but the fire for these games had almost gone out completely out and then I went to Nine Worlds in 2017. To cut a long story short, Nine Worlds is a convention of gathering Nerds, Geeks and misfits to talk about all things in Geekdom and have a great weekend where people can just be themselves. Here is a quick video on it that may or may not include people I know.
Anyway that’s enough shilling, the important thing to this write-up happened on the last night of the convention. The convention was officially over and being slowly taken down and the last few stragglers (including myself) were staying one last night in the hotel before we would head back to our usual boring lives. But on that last night was a very cool event that I immediately jumped at, live Rock Bandeoke (if that’s a word). They had all the gear set up and ready to go, you could put your name down to sing a song and nominate friends to play the instruments or it would go open slots for people in attendance to play them.
Now I don’t know why I did this, it was almost certainly adrenaline. I put my name down to sing and play the guitar at the same time, I then later played the guitar while my friend had a go at singing. The old saying is you never forget how to ride a bike, well it turns out you never forget how to play a plastic guitar either. Not to blow my own horn too much, but I fucking nailed it.
After that my love for the series was reignited and when we got home I got all the old kit out, booted up Rock Band 3 and we still play the series regularly (almost every weekend) at our house to this day. The people I live with love a sing-song, as do I (I used to sing in a band, with real instruments and not plastic ones).
It was great to play the game again but unfortunately no new songs were being added to the 360 store as now it had all but moved over to the Xbox One and Rock Band 4. Not to long afterwards however I was lucky enough to get a phone call from a relative who wanted to get rid of their Xbox One and was willing to sell it to me cheap. I jumped at the chance and before I even had the console in my hands I had ordered a copy of Rock Band 4 off the internet. For the second time, almost exactly 10 years apart, I had bought an Xbox to play Rock Band.
The best thing is that all the old songs still transferred over despite them not being on the same generation of console anymore. And with the store still being updated with two or three songs a week Rock Band store I am now sitting at nearly 700 songs. This song was added literally today as I write this and is my latest purchase (21/02/19).
The Show Must Go On!
I often describe Rock Band to my friends now as my own personal form of meditation. Rhythm games like this are a great way to slip into a flow state, I still often surprise myself at how good I can be because it’s basically instinct at this point.
I have talked elsewhere on this site about my own personal Mental Health issues and I’m sure it won’t work for everyone but the combination of music and something to just slip into unthinkingly has been a great aid in clearing my head having some peace from the world.
If you haven’t played one of these games then I wholeheartedly recommend you try one, they are immense fun and a great to blow off some steam or just slip away into the music.
Thanks for reading my first (yay!) post for my Extra Lives page, if you like this then come back and check that page as it is updated for more adventures into my personal history of gaming. As always, take care of yourselves and I’ll see you next time.
Here is Through the Fire and Flames by Dragonforce being played by a full band where they are all playing on Expert. Look how chaotic that screen is.