I saw a new South Park episode last night called 'Guitar Queer-o'. As you may have guessed if you've not seen it, it focuses on the Guitar Hero games. Now and again someone suggests games such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band suck because they're not about "really" playing guitar, and this episode hinted at agreeing.
There's an interesting snippet of dialogue in Guitar Queer-o between Randy (Stan's dad) and one of the children. Randy shows the kids he can play many of Guitar Hero's songs on a real guitar. One of the kids says, "That's gay," and turns back to watch Stan playing the game version. Although South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have frequently channelled their love of videogames into episodes of the show, this is the first episode where I felt they weren't in favour of a game.
I felt they were taking the pistachio, albeit gently, throughout the episode. In one scene a Guitar Hero whizzkid plays one of the game's songs 'acoustically', by tapping the plastic buttons of the game's guitar controller without it being hooked up to a console. Very funny, but nonetheless it suggested very lighthearted Michael-taking.
It's not the first time I've heard people claim that Guitar Hero discourages the learning of a real instrument. But these games are really just about rocking out to some popular songs, and can never replace creativity. They actually act as an encouragement to learn the real instrument and express yourself, and as a musician I don't think that sucks in the slightest.
Personally I'm still holding out for Symphony Hero: 100 people playing over Xbox Live to Beethoven's Fourth Symphony. But the killer would be One-Man Band Hero, where you have a controller strapped to each limb. Awesome.