I’ve always been a fan of music video games, from the early days of Dance Dance Revolution to the newest and greatest in Rock Band. But, I am finding that this genre has a ton of variations and ‘types’ of gameplay. Not only are there the popular rhythm games, but also several pitch, volume, music memory, and sight reading versions.

My favorite, the rhythm game, can be best described with three words- ‘Dance Dance Revolution‘. This highly popular game started a huge trend (especially in my geeky neck of the woods) of arcades and house parties with the main ingredient being an expensive dance mat and loud music. You could generally view a somewhat tired and sweaty gamer pounding the dance mat with his feet in the rhythm of the music on the screen.

Eventually, I got bored of dancing around like an idiot – because I never got the hang of DDR – and I switched to something a little easier, guitar games. Guitar Hero and Rock Band have become so popular, that it’s rare for me to walk into a house and the owner to not have one of the several versions of those games. Rock Band has let me become a rock star, touring the country and playing hundreds of songs in expert mode. I honestly couldn’t ask for more.

Along the lines of Rock Band are pitch games, where a player must sing or use their voice at the proper pitch to receive points for a given song. Pitch has been included into the Rock Band games, and also in karaoke or sing-along games such as Karaoke Revolution. I have found that when playing a pitch game, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the words as long as you sing in tune.

But if you can’t sing and you’d rather not play a plastic guitar, there are games such as Myst that incorporate eidetic memory, the ability to memorize a series of notes and play them back to the game.

No matter what kind of music game is your favorite, they all do one important thing: they make you learn. Each of these variations take concentration, practice, and focus. With Rock Band, everyone starts at beginner level (I did!), but eventually you can practice your way to expert mode and show off to all of your friends. You have to focus your attention on the music in the game and concentrate on creating the best score. Pitch and memory games help you learn about tone, pitches, and other musical concepts usually only found in a choir or band class.

Obviously none of these video games can really take the place of a classic classroom setting, but they all strive to teach you something. I recently bought Rock Band 3 which incorporates a ‘Pro’ setting. The Pro setting lets you play the music like a real life guitarist or bassist. The new guitar has frets and strings instead of plastic buttons, and you have to match the finger placement on the strings as well as match the timing of notes to score a higher rating.

I’m looking forward to seeing music video games that are more involved and harder to learn and I think Rock Band 3 makes a good example of where this genre is headed.

If you want to add me as a friend on XBox Live, my name is Snubsie and I’m open to requests.

Shannon Morse is a co-host of Hak5 on Revision3 and she is on the audio podcast Bite Club Show. You can also find her guest hosting various other internet shows now and then. When not geeking out with work, Shannon enjoys video games, anime, manga, traveling, building computers, and spending time with family and friends. Find more info about Shannon here.

The Rise of Music Video Games

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