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Zen and the Art of Guitar Hero 220

An anonymous reader writes "Julian Murdoch over at has what can only be described as a piece of liturgy, proclaiming a religious experience at his local Best Buy as he watches someone beat 'Through the Fire and the Flames' on Expert in Guitar Hero 3. 'At 6 minutes in, a small crowd has formed, perhaps 15 of us. His sravaka — his disciples — look nervously at us, absorbing the distractions, protecting him a bubble of calm. There is complete silence. Even my son is staring slackjawed, like he does in church during communion, not understanding the content of the ritual but understanding the tone and sacredness of the space.'"
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Zen and the Art of Guitar Hero

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  • by HeavensBlade23 ( 946140 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @10:48AM (#21738474)
    You realize DDR and Guitar Hero are basically the exact same game with different interfaces right? Both games ultimately boil down to hitting a button (with your foot or with your finger) in time with the music.
  • by mpathetiq ( 726625 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @10:49AM (#21738482) Homepage
    All you have to do is press the right buttons at the right time.

    All the best games have simple objectives.
  • Re:Wait... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eln ( 21727 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @10:50AM (#21738500)
    Let me translate for you:

    Kid who is very skilled at a game decides to play the game on the demo unit at the store. Kid does very well. A few people stop for a few seconds to watch him play, as people tend to do when others are playing the demo units, especially if they're doing well. Kid finishes playing, one or two people clap briefly, people leave.

    The rest is just storytelling. The author was impressed by someone who was obviously far better at the game than he could ever be, but he was being a little melodramatic about it.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @10:52AM (#21738512) Homepage
    I realize that. But it's much more exciting to watch somebody with that kind of coordination with their feet, than it is to watch someone do the exact same thing with large buttons laid out on a stick. Actually using your feet, rather than your fingers, makes the game a lot more interesting.
  • by jriding ( 1076733 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @10:52AM (#21738518)
    I too felt that way. The strange part is watching (the game looks retarded) but playing with all that mystery of "air guitar" and being a rocker it really brings it to life... now as you watch you say wow.. red and green same time then move to blue.. that doesn't look hard at all.. its just a pattern. Then you play... realizing your fingers do not listen to your brain. and it gets a lot more exciting.. The next time you watch someone pull off some insane finger combo's you understand how hard it really is and you appreciate their talent for dexterity and coordination. Again I agree you look stupid playing it and it looks like a boring game.. my only recommendation is give it a try for a couple of songs... .you may not go out and play at best buy, but you might just end up adding it to your game collection for playing in your house.
  • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @10:54AM (#21738550)
    All you have to do is press the right buttons at the right time.

    Isn't that all any video game is really?

    But we see the exceptions if we think about it and that's why there is a current trend in gaming. Namely the Wii and Guitar Hero. We're use to the game pad or WASD controls. The Wii and Guitar Hero leads us to a different style of play that is exciting to people. For Guitar Hero it's people's chance to play on a "real" guitar without the years of practice it would take to play these same songs for real.

    In the case of the Wii people are all up on a different controller style too. The idea of waving one's hand and making something happen on-screen is a form of magic to most people.
  • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by east coast ( 590680 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @10:59AM (#21738618)
    Come on people. It's a damned game.

    Tell yourself that the next time that it's ESPN or ESPN2 or The NFL channel or any other number of sports channels that guys gladly pay money to see people playing a game. It's a big business.

    Granted, the story is a bit gonzo but every game has it's fans that are going to make it out to be more than it is. Why not let the geeks be happy about it for a minute.
  • I don't get it (Score:1, Insightful)

    by edremy ( 36408 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:02AM (#21738646) Journal
    Can I be the only person on earth that doesn't "get" Guitar Hero? I've seen people play it on expert and even write some truly amazing user mods for it (Search for "erotomania guitar hero" on youtube) but it just doesn't make much sense. In the time it takes to get that good at GH, you could learn to play the guitar for real. (Ok, maybe not Erotomania) Personally, I suspect that folks would be more impressed with playing a real axe, even poorly, than a plastic one at Best Buy
  • by Nailexe ( 1086827 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:03AM (#21738662)
    I've noticed something that Guitar Hero players and real guitar players have in common. Guitar Hero players think you're lazy and suck if you play on medium, real guitar players think you're lazy and suck if you don't play guitar. And unless you're damn amazing absolutely neither of them will get you laid.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:17AM (#21738826) Homepage
    I would equate it more to lip syncing. To be good at Karaoke, you still have to know how to sing. To be good at lip syncing, you just have to move you lips in time with the music.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nlawalker ( 804108 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:30AM (#21739014)
    [[In the time it takes to get that good at GH, you could learn to play the guitar for real.]] It's really easy to say that, but I don't think it's true. I five-star songs here and there on expert (none of the insanely hard ones) and I've only been playing for a month or two. Unlike a real guitar, I don't have to spend time learning songs by playing sections over and over, I can just pick up the controller and shred. It's a lot of fun, and very satisfying.
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:34AM (#21739062)
    As somebody learning to play the guitar, let me tell you... It is much harder to learn to play a real guitar with any decency than it is to be fairly good at guitar hero. At least for me it is... You can do quite well at guitar hero after a couple tries. It can take months, or years to be any good at all at a real guitar.

    But that's not the point, anyway. The reason people play guitar hero is because it's fun. It's fun like karaoke night at your local bar, and a party video game all at once.
  • by Jeremy.DeGroot ( 878927 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:37AM (#21739106)

    But TFA reminded me of this piece [].

    Tennis is also a "damned game," but fans of the sport know it can be a venue for people to do amazing, humbling things. I don't play Guitar Hero, so I wouldn't appreciate the performance in the Best Buy. I expect that as a GH fan, the author had the same experience that millions of tennis fans have had watching Roger dominate the men's tour for the last half-decade. Think about the last time you were wowed at a concert, or at an art museum. Think about touring one of Europe's beautiful cathedrals. There's a reason that they build them that big, and that beautiful. The architecture, and the art all around you, helps people find God. Tennis and Guitar Hero can be art too, and can have the same effect if you know what you're seeing.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:40AM (#21739152) Journal
    I learned to play guitar hero reasonably competently in about an hour. After that hour, I was good enough that I could enjoy playing some of the harder songs, and pretend for just a moment that I was a rock star. That's what the game is about, and it serves its purpose very well. And if you give Rock Band a try with some friends, you'll see even more potential there.

    Comparing playing GH to learning a real instrument is missing the point.
  • Re:soooo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psmylie ( 169236 ) * on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:54AM (#21739298) Homepage
    If you take the time to get good at something, why not enjoy the benefits? It's not hurting anyone, it might drive interest in the game (good for the manufacturer and for the resailer) and if people enjoy watching, it's good for them too. As long as he doesn't develop his self-worth around how well he plays Guitar Hero, I don't see a problem with it
  • by C0rinthian ( 770164 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @12:27PM (#21739736)

    Likewise, they wouldn't want to have any real talent :)
    Work ethic is worth a hell of a lot more than talent. Just about anyone can play an instrumet or sing, or dance, or whatever. Some people have talent and start out a little more proficient than others. That head start is worthless if they don't have the work ethic to do anything with it.
  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @12:49PM (#21740036) Journal
    Certain very insecure dorks need to put down anything others think is cool, in order to try to look big and important, like they've seen it all and nothing can impress them. They only end up looking cool to other insecure dorks who will then put them down behind their backs. Adults don't give a rats ass what talkers say, we care about what doers do, and insecure jaded cynical children don't usually do much of anything.

    You know what's cooler than jaded cynicism? Enthusiasm. We don't want to hear how you could have done it better. Show us. We don't need you to point out that it's "been done." Do it, or don't, but don't shit on our graham crackers and call it a s'more.
  • by MadHatter2005 ( 886375 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @01:52PM (#21740830)
    insecure jaded cynical children don't usually do much of anything

    You are absolutely correct. Now that I'm a bit older I look at all the 'cool' hyper-cynical friends that I used to hang around with. They haven't done much with their lives, because creating something new necessitates a bit of risk, and oh god, what if you fail? Then all the other jaded and cynical folks you hang out with might make fun of you.
  • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WinterSolstice ( 223271 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @02:02PM (#21740992)
    Shoppers are not commuters. Commuters have trains to catch. Shoppers are just killing time.

    When I am trying to catch a train it wouldn't matter *who* was playing - if I miss my train and am late to work it'll matter a whole lot more.
  • by Xzazarill ( 201704 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @02:08PM (#21741102) Homepage
    Seriously, you people are starting to sound like a broken record. Why bother to post a comment like this when what seems like half the internet has already said it?

    And it's a poorly thought-out thing to say in the first place. Why don't Tony Hawk players go out and actually skateboard? Why don't DDR players just go find a real dancefloor? Why don't Madden players grab a real football?

    Because the video games are FUN, so SHUT UP.
  • Re:Wait... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @02:57PM (#21741812)
    Music is very easy, it's only a matter of hitting the right keys at the right time.

    J.S. Bach
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @03:57PM (#21742810)
    No, you can't "get good" at an instrument in a few months. If you think you're good after that short a time, then you're just "wearing the juice" or you're a virtuoso.

    I started playing my instrument in 1989. I'm now pretty good, but I'd still consider myself a "B-list" player. There are people who are far superior than me. (I play the euphonium. Technically, I play the Baritone Horn, but if I say that, people always say, "the sax?") I can still play the full range of my instrument, get higher than most other players, and I can circular breathe. I can also sing reasonably well. None of my musical talent was gained over a few months. It takes YEARS of dedicated practice to get good.

    My brother started playing bass guitar at about the same time. He's been able to land a few paying gigs. He's quite talented but has spent almost all of his time in the last decade playing guitar.

    Guitar Hero (like almost any other game) is an escapist fantasy game. That's all there is to it. And when you really get down to it, it's really just Simon with a really slick wrapper.
  • Re:Wait... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @06:18PM (#21744984)

    Tell yourself that the next time that it's ESPN or ESPN2 or The NFL channel or any other number of sports channels that guys gladly pay money to see people playing a game. It's a big business.
    Indeed. It's an opportunity to sell the slackjawed masses vast quantities of cheap plastic crap at truly mindbending markups.

  • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by keytoe ( 91531 ) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @06:18PM (#21744994) Homepage

    A guy goes out fishing. He catches a marlin. As he is bringing it home, sharks eat it.

    The rest is just storytelling. The author was clearly being melodramatic.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:08AM (#21748112) Journal
    You should know by now that nobody can ever leave anything they don't understand alone. It is the nature of the populace. We will either embrace it as magical, religious, or some other extra good thing or we will demonize it ritually and bash it without ever looking at it's finer points. I don't think you have to be told which happens more.
  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:32AM (#21748234) Journal
    Fuck that. You are obviously intelligent. Don't give up. I've been there, most smart people have. The world is fucked up and you can't come out of it unscathed. I've considered suicide at times, my wife has, plenty of our friends have, but thinking you'd be better off not being born is bullshit. You wouldn't even have the luxury to make that choice, now would you?

    How much therapy have you tried? I've been in therapy for years on and off and I'm better off than I was. Your pain and anger are there for a reason, and therapy can help you find that reason, come to terms with it, and learn to express your feelings constructively. I wish I could say I can do it all the time now. I can't but it's more of the time anyway.

    So it's not hopeless. I'm a lazy bastard and if I can learn to feel even a little better about myself, so can you.
  • by Tetsujin ( 103070 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:01PM (#21752052) Homepage Journal

    I was really thinking more in terms of the "barrier to entry", like you said. Any idiots can form a garage band nowadays that will actually play a few performances before someone notifies them of how badly they suck, so why do they play Guitar Hero instead? Because "real guitars are for old people"?

    On the other hand, very few people ever get to seriously take up a sport. I can understand why someone would want to pretend they made it to the NFL, whereas pretending to play guitar at some random party seems much more like being too lazy to learn to really play guitar at some random party.

    Then again, being a dancer with good speaking and singing voices, I guess I may have underestimated the level of inborn talent needed to form a competent musical group.
    Well, here's the thing: Nobody can do everything for real. There's just no time. People choose the things they're gonna do with their life: and once they've filled that schedule of stuff, they can't necessarily add more stuff, no matter how easy it is to learn. "Oh, learn some Assembler. It's not that hard." Sure, but if you're already busy doing a dozen other things...

    Don't think of Rock Band as a substitute for starting a real band - think of it as what it is, a game. People play it and they have fun. What a concept, huh?

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas