Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal
The Guitar Hero Effect

Ruth Booth | 5 Jan 2010 13:11
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But what really appeals to Weir more than the sales figures are the opportunities for gamers to really interact with the music. "Xbox Live has a lot of music videos up on their social network, and PlayStation now is also doing the SingStar social network, where people upload their own videos and everything, too," she says. "So it's crossing over into everything - not just music, not just videogames. It's a community."


As a gamer, Weir admits that games like Guitar Hero have changed the way she listens to music. But as a label head, she debates whether Guitar Hero has had as much of an impact as many claim it has on how labels view working with the games industry.

"Everyone always thinks it's cool to be involved in computer games," Weir says. "Bands always do. I don't think I've ever worked with a band who'd say 'no' to being put on a computer game. It's almost like a pat on the back."


The best game soundtracks are more than just mood music - they actually tap into the culture that the games attempt to depict. Most of the people I talked to while researching this article cited either Grand Theft Auto or the Tony Hawk series as being among the first games where a guitar-based soundtrack really stood out for them, particularly the Tony Hawk games, where the soundtracks have mined first the punk and now the full alternative music culture that surrounds skating.

Similarly, games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band tap into metal culture, but in the most direct way possible: You don't just get to pretend to play a rockstar, you virtually get to be one. "Rock Band is basically karaoke for metallers," says Weir. "Not everybody wants to get up there and sing 'House Of The Rising Sun' or 'Beat It' when they've had a drink. But lads will quite happily get up and noodle around, whether they're good or bad or terrible."

The karaoke metaphor is a double-edged sword. As industry pundit Bob Lefsetz famously pointed out in 2009 when commenting on The Beatles Rock Band, a lot of hardcore gamers will simply play the game to completion and move on. At the end of the day, metal fans, gamers and casual players all enjoy music-based games on different levels. And while song downloads from these games now count towards the singles download charts in the U.K., the extent to which they lead to long-term success is debatable.

"It's a social gaming experience; it's no more than that," opines Matt Davies-Kreye from post-hardcore band Funeral For A Friend. "It's a next-step karaoke. It's fun to do, it's not serious, but if people want to learn to play these things, pick up a guitar and get a chord book and spend the hours that guitar playing demands of you. It doesn't really get creative for bands because the song's already been written."

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