Chapter

How Musical Is <i>Guitar Hero</i>?

Kiri Miller

in Playing Along

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199753451
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932979 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199753451.003.0003

Series: Oxford Music/Media Series

                      How Musical Is Guitar Hero?

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  • American Music
  • Ethnomusicology

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This chapter argues that the Guitar Hero and Rock Band video games have inspired new modes of engagement with popular music. It addresses gameplay as a developing genre of collaborative, participatory rock music performance that is generating debate about the nature of musical and performative authenticity. The chapter analyzes the games’ implicit models of rock ideology, their sometimes-sincere/sometimes-ironic constructions of rock heroism, and heated reception debates about whether the games foster genuine musicianship. It explores players’ ideas about musicality and creativity, focusing on players who have significant experience playing traditional instruments. Playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band isn’t just like playing a real instrument, but it’s nothing at all like just listening to music. The affective experience of making music is bound up with embodied performance, and these games compel bodily engagement.

Keywords: popular music; collaboration; participation; authenticity; reception; Guitar Hero; Rock Band; embodiment; creativity; instrument

Chapter.  17040 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music ; Ethnomusicology

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