Because the plastic accessories used to play music games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band look somewhat like real musical instruments, they have the unintended consequence of making gamers think they can pick up a real-life guitar and play, and real-world musicians think they'll be instant experts at these games. Neither case is generally true (take it from someone whose most recent album is holding steady at No. 87 in Amazon's Funk Rock category, and has been playing guitar for more than 20 years, but who can hardly get through a Guitar Hero song on medium difficulty).
The inclusion of basic but usable electronic drum pads in the past few generations of these games changed the situation somewhat, and at harder difficulties, one could end up playing a fairly realistic drum part, but it wasn't until this year that the line between real instruments and game controllers really started to blur.
Having recently gotten a chance to demo the latest gear for Rock Band 3, I found a lot of new angles designed to punch some life into the ailing music games genre, but also still ran into several examples of the disconnect between real music and game music.
Just as Rock Band changed the guitar game landscape by adding drums, the upcoming version of the game adds a keyboard controller, a few new types of guitar controllers, and a new chord-playing system in the game that finally makes actual music-playing ability relevant.
Besides the usual five-button guitar controller similar to the ones used in music games as far back as the original Guitar Hero, there's also a new Pro-level controller. This version has six fixed string-like sensors in place of the traditional strum bar, and replaces the five colored fret buttons with separate tiny buttons for each string at every fret on the guitar neck. That's 17 frets across six strings, more than 100 independent buttons.
Playing with this Pro guitar controller turns on an optional chording system, which allows for onscreen chords requiring up to six notes to be hit simultaneously (thereby forming the chord in question). The in-game tutorial for learning to play these chords seems reasonable enough, but the notation used in the game itself was confusing, with bars of differing heights scrolling down a virtual fretboard, indicating a chord constructed from notes above or below an indicated root note. If that sounds hard to follow, that's because it is. … Read more