The first installment in the Guitar Hero series was released in 2005. The developers at Harmonix were obviously inspired by 1998’s Konami’s GuitarFreaks, in which players also use a guitar-shaped controller with colored fret buttons on the neck and a pick lever to score points playing along to rock music. That game never took off on the level of Guitar Hero though, partly because GuitarFreaks required players to shred along to the likes of Mutsuhiko Izumi, 桜井 敏郎, 小野秀幸, 前田尚紀 and Jimmy Weckl (né ジミー・ウェックル), who composed songs especially for the game. Guitar Hero’s innovation was including 47 AOR songs by the likes of the Ramones, Deep Purple, umlaut-abusers Blue Öyster Cult and Motörhead — songs that, whatever you think of them, are seared into your brain if you’ve ever drank a Mountain Dew, rode in a Z-28, watched a television commercial or shopped at Amoeba. That means even if you’ve heard “More Than a Feeling” 603,501 times more than you ever wanted, you’ll have no problem playing along.
In 2006, RedOctane (the manufacturers of the guitar controllers) was purchased by Activision and Harmonix was bought by MTV. In 2007 Harmonix released, through Electronic Arts, Rock Band — basically an expanded version of Guitar Hero which added other instruments, another innovation inspired by Konami’s games of the previous decade which followed up GuitarFreaks with DrumFreaks and KeyboardFreaks.
Guitar Hero World Tour is scheduled for October 26th release (you can pre-order it here). In order to stay competitive with Rock Band, it now includes additional instruments as well as playable characters drawn from real life such as rock gods like Billy Corgan and Sting.
Originally, the latest installment in the series was to be known as Guitar Hero IV *yawn* until Brett Ratner (the Defamer-beloved director of the Rush Hour films, Red Dragon, Family Man, After the Sunset, &c.) came up the new name during a vision quest. But, amazingly, he didn’t stop there. Ratner went on to describe his shamanic vision in an eloquent and revealing interview with MTV Multiplayer:
“I love ‘Guitar Hero’ and I think it’s a part of pop culture. I would love to do a
‘Guitar Hero’ movie, if Activision would ever let me. I’m trying to convince them,
but why would you have a movie screw up such a huge franchise? Not that I
would make a bad movie. So that would be cool, to do a ‘Guitar Hero’ movie.
It could be about a kid from a small town who dreams of being a rock star and
he wins the ‘Guitar Hero’ competition. One of these dreams kind of concepts.”
Isn’t that amazing? But how much cooler would it’ve been if it was called Brett Ratner presents Guitar Hero World Tour? Not so good? See- that’s why I’m paid the small bucks and he gets $9 million per picture.
Like that? Buy that! 24s – ride that.
So deep and enduring is Brett Ratner’s love of GuitarHero that he even included it in his latest work, the video for Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body.”
It’s hard to deny Guitar Hero’s significant impact on our culture. Or didn’t you read what Ratner said: “…I think it’s a part of pop culture.” He’s right. Who of us hasn’t gone to a party expecting to socialize and maybe get a little crunk with friends, only to find and join them in staring at a TV screen whilst someone else plays some moldy oldies until you look at your watch and suddenly you’re five years older?
As evidence of the game’s seductive power, Guitar Hero has even penetrated the Christofacist world, inspiring some religious nutters to make Guitar Praise. The effect will, no doubt, be similar. Imagine the panic at Young Life meetings when some kid realizes that he or she forget to give the Jesus speech because they were in a GH-Hole for the entire night. I wonder what Bob Larson‘s feelings about Guitar Hero are.
Remember when Charlie Daniels reacted with horror to find the image of the Light-Bringer rocking out to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in Guitar Hero III? He warned, “This game looks innocent enough but if you have a child who is playing it, take the time to sit with him or her while they’re playing along and take a serious look at the images on the screen.You may be surprised at the world they’re being exposed to.”
The very bands featured on Guitar Hero, especially lesser-known ones, have benefited greatly from the exposure afforded them by their inclusion in the game. Some acts have seen experienced fairly massive increases in sales. The awesome DragonForce saw a 126% increase in CD sales in one week after their song “Push Push (Lady Lightning)” was included in Guitar Hero III.
As people increasingly turn to iPods, Satellite Radio and Pandora for new music (as radio stations whittle their playlists down to a core of three or four songs) it’s kind of crazy that soundtracks, ringtones and video games are the main means for turning the generation raised on puerile Disney/Nickelodeon pop and bourgie “urban” music on to great bands of the past like Ratt, Die Toten Hosen and Heroes del Silencio as well as new, up-and-coming acts not otherwise given much exposure.
And now Amoeba is getting in on the action. One of the stages in the Guitar Hero World Tour is inspired by the stage here at the Hollywood store! Here’s an exclusive screen shot.
Also, on October 26th, you and your friends will be able to get on the actual Amoeba stage and play Guitar Hero. Knowing how into Guitar Hero Bret Ratner is, I wouldn’t be surprised if he shows up, scouting for talent and maybe even wowing us with a performance. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up starring in Brett Ratner’s next blockbuster as that small town kid who wins the big prize.
Guitar Hero: World Tour will also be the first video game Amoeba will carry new. Up to now, we’ve only sold used games. Maybe, just maybe, if you and your friends buy the game and everyone closes their eyes and really believes in the spirt of gaming, maybe we’ll start carrying more new games. My friends, getting Amoeba to sell games was something that I’ve been nagging for for years (because I’m a maverick like that).
Not that the used ones are bad. They’re all priced under ten dollars (which is why the 360, Wii and PS3 titles are snatched up within seconds of hitting the floor). A lot of great titles pass through the section, although most of the computer games are going to require you to run Window 95.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century varieties of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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