Guitar video game doesn’t devalue real-life play

Every musician’s dream of going head-to-head against legendary guitar hero Slash became a reality last October when “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” was released.

According to the NDP Group, the franchise has sold more than 14 million copies in North America alone, and its popularity reached a record high this month when it surpassed $1 billion in sales.

The allure of the game is obvious: Any person can become a guitar hero even if that person has never played the guitar. The benefits of mastering the video game over the actual instrument seem endless at first glance.

For less than $100 you can purchase your own Gibson Les Paul at Wal-Mart, complete with green, red, yellow, blue and orange buttons for maximum playability. An actual Les Paul might cost up to 40 times that amount, and instead of buttons, you get real strings, which break and are far more difficult to tune.

After only a few hours of playing “Guitar Hero,” one can become an expert in playing a sample of almost any musical style, as long as it rocks.

Realistically, someone attempting to play the actual guitar could spend his or her entire life practicing and never be able to achieve the same level of expertise as an adept student of the video game. Plus, in the video game you never have to deal with greedy record companies or a declining fan base.

For many people who actually play the guitar, the worry that being able to pick up a digital knockoff of the instrument will deter people from learning how to play music isn’t far from their minds.

A recent Nielsen study showed the number of households in the U.S. with video game consoles has increased 18.5 percent over the past two years. With “Guitar Hero” available on almost every next-generation console, one has to wonder if increased sales means the end of musicianship among users across the nation.

The fact of the matter is that there is no evidence suggesting “Guitar Hero” causes people to lose interest in playing the guitar. While studies haven’t been conducted as to the effect the game has on individual interest in the instrument, “Guitar Hero” has been linked to an increase in CD sales for bands that haven’t exactly been at the top of the charts recently.

Roadrunner Records stated that sales of the album “Inhuman Rampage” by a band named DragonForce increased 126 percent in the week following the release of “Guitar Hero III.” The band has a song featured in the game, and many are beginning to suggest that CD sales of more obscure bands will see an increase because of the large variety of songs and artists featured in the game.

Obviously, the game encourages a more adventurous spirit when it comes to users seeking out new ways to whet their musical appetites. It’s possible that the game may provide a reason for more and more people to take up the actual guitar and learn to play a few of their most beloved tracks from the game on the real deal.

There’s no reason to doubt the value such a game has in encouraging an increased interest in learning how to “wow” your friends with a mediocre Jimi Hendrix impersonation. Besides, “Guitar Hero” is simply a lot of fun to play.