It’s no secret I aspire to break into the game journalism business. Often I get weird looks or questions about it, or perhaps a reaction like, “Oh that’s cool”. I never figured out if they’re being sarcastic or just not wanting to show ignorance for what they feel like they should know about. Which of course I would never expect someone to know what the hell a game journalist is.
The other main reaction I get is people asking, “why”. More importantly, “Why videogames?”. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Videogames are just rad, right? Writing about them and communicating with like-minded folks brings its own rewards, but I believe it’s something more.
Recently it dawned on me, I’m attracted the experience and sharing it with others. The best-case scenario is rewarding and interesting. You can easily look at that as having a lot of fun with your favorite game or enjoying the spectacle of E3 announcements. But those to me are surface-level experiences. Lets take a deeper look…
Special experiences happen only ever so often. It’s those moments when someone halts the videogame train. You saw one personal example in my last blog. For a public example, The Walking Dead encapsulated everything to me. That game brought out fantastic Twitter responses, people having civil discussions about their actions, and my own mother called me when she finished it almost crying. It was an intense game that brought the community together in ways I’ve never seen a single-player game do before. For lack of better words, it was a zeitgeist.
We’ve talked enough about The Walking Dead. If you read any GOTY stuff, you’re probably burned out. Lets go back to a past major gaming experience, Rock Band. Remember Rock Band? I do. There are few games that bring people together. Yes, I’ve been in a lot of Battlefield 2 matches and Halo LAN parties. But that’s not what I’m talking about. The point I’m making is the real social connection. The game itself is the event people that don’t even really recognize games want to participate in. It’s the kind of game that people like us can more easily share our hobby with others. It’s a lot easier to ask non-gamers to give a game like Rock Band a chance as opposed to other popular titles.
After hearing about the news regarding Harmonix cutting weekly DLC in April had me thinking about how important Rock Band was. I look to Call of Duty 4 often as “the GTA III of our generation”. That game that brought videogames further into the mainstream. Wii Sports can also be credited. However, Harmonix set a standard with Rock Band. The original Rock Band released in 2007. Think about where games were at that time. GiantBomb was a year away from inception, we only had one Gears of War game, and Microsoft was announcing a 360 with an HDMI port.
DLC was barely a thought back then. I remember working at GameStop and trying to make people understand they can purchase new songs for this game. A pretty simple concept right now for us, but to Joe-Consumer in 2007 it’s just a weird thought. DLC was new. Now one of the first questions game journalists pose to developers is inquiring about a game’s post-launch support. Rock Band didn’t come out with a few songs, but instead released new tracks every single week since 2007. Thats nuts, even if most of us probably don’t care about rhythm games right now.
Recently I had to move. After gathering up all my things I realized how much goddamn space all my fake instruments took. I had a massive pile of drums, guitars, microphones, and a keyboard. Harmonix did something crazy. They took the rhythm genre, a thing that not a lot of people were familiar with and made it great. Some geniuses figured out how to make it acceptable for a grown-ass man to have a bunch of fake guitars, and in most cases it was pretty cool.
It wasn’t uncommon for folks to gather at my house for Rock Band nights. Alcohol was a fantastic addition as well. People just walking into the game for the first time walk into my home to see a grown man sitting behind a plastic drum kit and a drunk girl singing Paramore might not set the greatest first impression. But virtually everyone I showed the game to adopted it as a very viable social tool. A lot of times before get-togethers I would get asked about if Rock Band would be available. It was a crazy time.
Harmonix set a massive footprint in the videogame space with Rock Band. It was insane during the high points of Rock Band’s popularity. I spent way too much money on songs and fake guitars. However, it was a little mini-golden age. That game had a sense of community nothing else before it had. I don’t even know if something on that level can be done again. It’s unfortunate the ride is over, but I’m left with so many fantastic memories.
With all that said, what are some of your favorite gaming experiences?
Thanks for reading!