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Fantasy to Reality
A History of Rock Music and Video Games

by Eric Kurtz

Music and video games have always been incorporated to make the game either a smash or a flop. Halo's monk like hymns and heavy guitar riffs really make you "feel" the game, while playing. So what happens when a game is centered on the actual musician? Surprisingly the game seems to flourish when the musician releases it when the band is in high demand. The gameplay is thrown out the window and yet the gamers keep playing it. Constantly throwing reality to the wind, rock and roll games center around a fictional setting that tries to draw the gamer into playing it.

In the 80's rock was a hot genre of music for the time. One band that took their group to another level was the rock band Journey. The first game with digitized graphics was a game about the band Journey finding their instruments scattered about the land. The game consisted of the player having a choice of five different planets, each of them containing Journey's musical instruments. This was the first game to incorporate rock music with video games. Obviously, the developer used Journey's music in the game to capitalize on their name and popularity, and to cash in. Journey's music played through the entirety of the game. With simple digitized bodies and photos of the band's heads this took a very basic approach to adventure games. When all five instruments are collected Journey plays the concert, which is actually a loop of the song "Separate Ways". The game gave a very fictional approach suggesting that somewhere in the future Journey would be king. This never happened and the game is now quite hard to find.

A few years later another musician looked to tackle the gaming industry with his music. Moonwalker, released by Sega in 1990, revolved around the popular pop/rock persona of Michael Jackson. The game was centered on Jackson's music video Moonwalker and incorporated such synthesized songs as "Beat it" and "Billie Jean". You played as Michael Jackson trying to save children from the evil villain Mr. Big. Again, like Journey, this game suggests a fictional setting where robots and evil henchmen are everywhere. The disturbing part of this game can now be seen around the accusations that Jackson himself has been accused of "touching" young boys in reality. (

A game that did not revolve around musicians, but incorporated rock songs was the game titled Rock N' Roll Racing released in 1993. The Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis game was a very basic racer. You raced around tracks picking up weapons, power ups, and health, while listening to popular rock songs. An example of this is Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" obviously pertaining to the feel of the game, which was a fast paced shooting/racing game, much like Mario Kart, which would release several years later. This game again suggested a fictional approach with monsters driving these cars and missiles flying at your back. Much like Journey's setting of planets, the characters themselves were from unknown planets. This game however became a classic inspiring Nintendo to release it on the Gameboy Advance in 2003.

In 1994 the band, Aerosmith, took control of the arcade and console with their game Revolution X. The game, again, revolved around a fictional future where the government ruled its people and prohibited all types of entertainment such as television, music, and video games. The game centered on the band Aerosmith being captured by the communist regime. Aerosmith uses such songs as "Sweet Emotion", "Eat the Rich", and "Walk this Way" in the soundtrack enhancing the fast paced shooting experience. The game was a standard side scrolling shooter game where you fire your light gun at the enemy. The game became a hit because of the light gun used in the Arcade version, sadly though the console versions never incorporated the light gun making the console versions a disappointment.

In 2000, a trivia game was released on the PC entitled Backstage Pass. The game was created by the company Sierra, who gave you the "You Don't Know Jack" trivia games created the game for music experts. The game "brings Rock and Roll trivia to your computer with more than 100 songs performed by the original artists." The game although fun really depends on the interest of the individual. IGN boldy states "with over 600 questions this one will keep you busy for a while."

With video games in high demand, artists are now seeking to incorporate their music and likeness on the consoles. Licensing music for games seems to become a steady trend now in the 21st century.

"Increasingly, big-name artists, managers and record labels are discovering that video games -- whose annual sales now top U.S. movie box-office receipts -- offer them a new venue. Performers from Sisqo, the platinum-blond rapper behind the popular "Thong Song," to shock-rocker Marilyn Manson and MixMaster Mike of the Beastie Boys are courting game developers to get their music, as well as their names and faces, on video games."(

Showing the influence that games now have on the everyday people. Sports games are the new hype and musicians now see that. Trying to get their songs on Madden Football or Knockout Kings boxing. Some do not agree that using a popular artist is the correct thing to do. ZD.Net quotes those involved, "We take a slightly different slant and tend to find less famous people that are more suited to making music for the game," and "The game comes first."

Finally, in 2005, a game came out that incorporated popular rock music and the hands on experience of actually playing the song. The game "Guitar Hero" was released on the Playstation 2 in 2005. "Guitar Hero plays fantastically, it has great music, and, for a change, it's a rhythm game that's accessible to beginners." ( The game incorporates popular guitar riff songs that are fun to play. What really sets the game apart from other rock and roll games though is that the object of the game is to actually play the song. Like "Dance Dance Revolution" the game has an interactive accessory that comes with the game. A guitar sized shape controller with 5 buttons is what makes the game so great. You play along with the actual song and hit the guitar buttons, while looking at the screen.

In conclusion, rock games have come and gone, but it seems like the older the band the more people want to play the game. Journey, Moonwalker, and Revolution X had a popular demand when the artists were on the charts. Even when they fell off though people still wanted to play the games, creating a sense of nostalgia for not only the game, but for the artist. In the 21st century though games do not revolve around a specific band, but capture a whole genre of music. These new interactive rock games, Guitar Hero, have the gamer even feel like they are part of the band, becoming a lot more personal and a lot less fictional.


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