Why Play X? Wouldn’t You Rather Y?

I grew up play­ing Super Mario Bros., and not once did any­one sug­gest that I go through town bust­ing bricks search­ing for mag­ic mush­rooms, mer­ci­less­ly stomp­ing any tur­tles which may get in my path.

I grew up play­ing Pac-Man, and not once did any­one sug­gest that I wan­der through a dark room, pop­ping pills, attempt­ing to eat ghosts and fruits. (Well, it was sug­gest­ed that I eat more fruit…)

I grew up play­ing The Leg­end of Zel­da, and not once did any­one sug­gest that I seek out trea­sure by burn­ing away bush­es, dig­ging up yards, or bomb­ing through labyrinthine caves.

I grew up play­ing Super Mario Kart, and not once did any­one sug­gest that I get a Go Kart or race them at Wal­ly World (no, not Wal-Mart).

I grew up play­ing Gold­en­Eye 007, and not once did any­one sug­gest that I pur­chase a silenced pis­tol and ven­ture forth to Rus­sia as a spy.

I grew up play­ing Duke Nukem, Doom, Tur­ok, and Quake, and not once did any­one sug­gest that I seek out big­ger and bet­ter weapon­ry for relent­less alien, demon, and dinosaur slaughtering.

I grew up play­ing Pop­u­lous, and not once did any­one sug­gest that I wage war on my neigh­bors for the sake of expand­ing my own property.

I grew up play­ing Sim­C­i­ty, and not once did any­one sug­gest that I unleash nat­ur­al dis­as­ters (or, in Super Nin­ten­do terms, a giant King Bows­er) upon my own property.

I grew up play­ing a great many things, and nev­er did any­one sug­gest that I should instead do the real life vari­ant. (Okay, due to my LEGO addic­tion, I was told on more than one occa­sion I should be an archi­tect or design­er, but we’re talk­ing video games here…)

So why-oh-why is it that now that I am grown up, if I play Gui­tar Hero, peo­ple do sug­gest that instead I play a real gui­tar? What is it about that par­tic­u­lar game that peo­ple seem to have such a prob­lem with?

I’ve even seen numer­ous Web comics which point out how much cool­er you are if you can play a real gui­tar as opposed to Gui­tar Hero. Great, but so? I won­der if it has ever occurred to such peo­ple that maybe Gui­tar Hero is just a fun game which can be enjoyed with­out the hours of prac­tice, com­mit­ment, and fin­ger-cal­lous­ing which goes along with a real gui­tar? That alone makes it sig­nif­i­cant­ly more acces­si­ble to a much greater por­tion of the pop­u­lace, and of course the more peo­ple who can play it, the fun­ner it becomes. (And the more who enjoy it, the bet­ter the games get… Gui­tar Hero 4 looks like it is going to be incred­i­ble based upon what I’ve read about it.)

I real­ize that Gui­tar Hero may only be a suped-up ver­sion of air gui­tar, but lis­ten­ing to music while air-jam­ming along is a very effec­tive stress-reliev­er (I can only wish that some­day Gui­tar Hero has Metal­li­ca’s “Whiskey in the Jar” for that very rea­son). It’s escapist. It’s fun. It isn’t real gui­tar, but it isn’t meant to be. Get over it.

Thanks.

(Pic­tures in this post are linked to their source; none of them are of me.)

4 thoughts on “Why Play X? Wouldn’t You Rather Y?”

  1. Which of the below list­ed activ­i­ties does not belong? Why not?

    “go through town bust­ing bricks search­ing for mag­ic mush­rooms, mer­ci­less­ly stomp­ing any tur­tles which may get in my path.”

    “wan­der through a dark room, pop­ping pills, attempt­ing to eat ghosts and fruits.”

    “seek out trea­sure by burn­ing away bush­es, dig­ging up yards, or bomb­ing through labyrinthine caves.”

    “get a Go Kart or race them at Wal­ly World”

    “pur­chase a silenced pis­tol and ven­ture forth to Rus­sia as a spy”

    “seek out big­ger & bet­ter weapon­ry for relent­less alien, demon, and dinosaur slaughtering.”

    “wage war on my neigh­bors for the sake of expand­ing my own property.”

    “unleash nat­ur­al dis­as­ters (or, in Super Nin­ten­do terms, a giant King Bows­er) upon my own property.”

    “play a real guitar”

  2. Senior: I’ll assume that your point is that “play a real gui­tar” is some­thing I can already do (and should be doing more of). Or maybe your point is that it’s infi­nite­ly more prac­ti­cal than going on an alien-slaugh­ter­ing ram­page for the sake of human­i­ty. I agree.

    But that argu­ment works eas­i­ly only because of my selec­tion of games. What if I was a huge sports fan and grew up play­ing NBA, NCAA, NFL, Mad­den, FIFA, NASCAR, or Formula‑1 games? I haven’t noticed much, for lack of a bet­ter word, ridicule toward those who play those games, and they remain peren­ni­al­ly pop­u­lar, espe­cial­ly the Mad­den games. But should­n’t all those play­ers just go out­side and play a real game?

    Per­haps, but then that defeats the escapist prin­ci­ple of gaming.

    (I just remem­bered I grew up also play­ing a WCW/nWo game; and while no one was encour­ag­ing me to do so, my friends and I had plen­ty of wrestling match­es out in the yard.)

    When Gui­tar Hero 4 comes out, it’ll sup­port vocals, drums, bass, and gui­tar; being able to jam along with pret­ty much all my friends, whether they are musi­cal­ly skilled or not, will be a lot of fun. And you’re wel­come to join in on vocals, if you’d like. :P

  3. “being able to jam along with pret­ty much all my friends, whether they are musi­cal­ly skilled or not, will be a lot of fun. And you’re wel­come to join in on vocals, if you’d like.”

    A lot of fun until I start singing and every­one leaves.…

    I think the dif­fer­ence is that play­ing Mad­don foot­ball is a very dif­fer­ent activ­i­ty than going out­side and play­ing foot­ball. Dit­to for the oth­er sports games.

    But play­ing gui­tar hero appears to be sub­stan­tial­ly the same activ­i­ty as play­ing a gui­tar. You hold it the same. Your left hand is doing one thing on the neck and your right hand some­thing else on the body (right?). The activ­i­ty is so sim­i­lar, it seems nuts to not do the real thing.

    As the Wii becomes more wide­ly known, some of those games may become sub­ject to the same criticism.

  4. Senior: Rumor has it that Gui­tar Hero 4 will fea­ture yet anoth­er advance­ment to the gui­tar acces­so­ry to make it even more real­is­tic. Also, com­peti­tor game Rock Band fea­tures a gui­tar which not only has five but­tons at the top of the neck, but also five at the bot­tom, for more real­is­tic gui­tar solo playing.

    Gui­tar Hero 4, report­ed­ly, will also fea­ture brief por­tions of the songs with­in which play­ers can impro­vise (well, at least the drummer).

    Real­ism is def­i­nite­ly being pushed for.

    Even­tu­al­ly, play­ing Gui­tar Hero will be the same as play­ing a gui­tar, and we won’t be hav­ing this dis­cus­sion any more. :P Well, then we’ll be dis­cussing why it’s bet­ter to mem­o­rize songs for play rather than play­ing songs via col­ored gem recog­ni­tion. (But even orches­tral musi­cians get to use sheet music!)

    You’re prob­a­bly right about the Wii; there are already bowl­ing, box­ing, exer­cise, dance, base­ball, ten­nis, table ten­nis, darts, and tar­get prac­tice games which, thanks to the Wii’s awe­some acces­sories, are much more real­is­tic than past games ever could have been.

    And odd­ly enough, I came across this just moments ago:
    http://ablk.com/img/e.jpg

    Goes near­ly per­fect­ly with the first point I made in the above post. :P

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Rick Beckman