Coming Up for Air Guitar

By Tom Peters |

Computer games that combine gaming with mild to intense physical exercise, such as Dance Dance Revolution and the Wii, seem to be gaining popularity both within and without libraries.  Having libraries host “rock the stacks” battles of the bands also has proven to be a popular way to lure teens into libraries. 

Guitar Hero is a guitar-playing simulation game that combines elements of both these phenomena.  Two players try to hit the right chords at the right time, based upon visual clues, in order to score points, outscore their opponent, and enhance their entourage of groupies. 

air guitaristWhenever I've observed people playing Guitar Hero, they obviously are immersed in the experience.  Rock and roll has been around long enough to now appeal to all generations and age groups.  These games take playing the “air guitar” to new heights. 

Today's edition of The Wall Street Journal contains a long article about the simulated guitar playing gaming industry.  Last week Activision, the industry leader in this category of active game simulation, released Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.  The latest version features a wireless guitar-shaped controller.  I have no axe to grind about that. 


Next month a hot new simulated rock band game called, appropriately enough, Rock Band will hit the market just in time for the winter holiday gift-giving season.  Rock Band is owned by MTV and will be distributed by Electronic Arts, Inc.  It will allow up to four players per side:  guitar, bass, vocals, and drums.  Both of these recent versions of these games will now feature master recordings of the bands and guitarists that made the included songs famous.  Watch out Jimi and Stevie Ray, here I come. 

some guy in a suit trying DDRThe music-games category within the booming gaming industry is big business in its own right.  The WSJ reports that since the first version of Guitar Hero was released in the U.S. two years ago, nearly six million copies have sold here for total sales of approximately $425 million. 

The MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) for Guitar Hero III is about $100, compared to about $170 for Rock Band.  Industry analysts predict that Guitar Hero will continue to outsell Rock Band for at least the last quarter of 2007, but then all bets are off.  No word yet if ruggedized library versions of these games will ever become available, which stretches the concept of library binding in interesting ways.  

So, Rock On all you libraries and library users.  Who knows, you may become a member of the next generation Monkees band.  The only thing you can't do is smash your guitar-shaped game controller as part of your virtual performance.  You'll get fined.  While you're at it, don't trash your hotel room, don't do drugs, get plenty of rest, and eat right.