Rock Band: Better than Bowling

I have long believed that the greatest impediment to widespread adoption of video games is the inaccessibility of the controls. Quite frankly, most people are afraid of a game controller. The idea of controlling the array of buttons, joysticks, and levers without even looking at them is intimidating to many. The greatest reason for the success of the Wii is the new control system which makes games more accessible by mapping general motion of the arms to input. The brilliance of the game Rock Band is that brings a new set of controls that is even more accessible: singing.

In this way, Rock Band is like bowling. Everybody bowls. Everybody sings. Most people are mediocre at both.

Most main-stream, popular games are easy to learn, yet difficult to master. In my opinion, however, the new edge which Rock Band explores is a confidence building progression. To entice a new player to Rock Band, you tell them to try singing. “Come on, it’s just like regular singing…the words are all on the screen”, etc. Soon, the player discovers that it really wasn’t all that hard. In fact, it was a lot of fun. Everybody else is playing along too, so they don’t feel like a doofus. Soon comes the “You want to take a shot at drums?”, and the rest is history. Hours later, your player who was previously fearful and newbish has emerged from the cocoon of Rock Band, a freshly minted, four instrument playing Rock God.

In my opinion, the only impediment to Rock Band‘s growth into a cultural institution is the $500 start up cost. I’m not saying it would be as ubiquitous as a VCR if it only cost $50, but I am saying that if it cost a good deal less, everybody would know somebody who had Rock Band. As the first generation of Rockers begins to age, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find Rock Band in retirement communities and the like.

In my capacity as a video game lover/evangelist, Rock Band is very exciting to me because it dramatically explores unfamiliar territory, perhaps increasing the audience of video games more than any game that has ever been made.

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