In a shocking turnaround, music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, once hailed as the recording industry’s savior, are largely confined to jokes and cautionary business tales nowadays. Curiously, critics also continue to label the genre "dead," despite the continued platinum-selling success of titles like Dance Central, Tap Tap Revenge 4 and Michael Jackson: The Experience. Blame dumb luck, as, following a record-breaking rise to becoming a $1.7 billion industry by 2008, the category’s sales crashed by 46% just one year later, causing casual observers to label it a one-hit wonder.
But what naysayers may not know, and culture vultures not realize, is that video games and music have actually enjoyed a long and sordid marriage, dating back nearly to the beginning of interactive entertainment itself. Likewise, new titles for motion control systems like PlayStation Move and Kinect, plus smartphones and social networks (e.g. this holiday season’s hottest offerings) are also quietly rising from the field’s supposed ashes to carry its legacy forward. It’s a long and storied relationship chronicled in yours truly’s new free downloadable book Music Games Rock: Rhythm Gaming’s Greatest Hits of All Time, which explores the past, present and future of the uniquely hard-partying genre.
The volume reveals how this whirlwind romance, dating back to the pre-Atari 2600 era, neither begins with pricey plastic axe peripherals and animated cartoon dogs dropping mad science, nor ends with newer, more realistic outings like PowerGig and Rocksmith. What’s more, from the field’s humble beginnings with the likes of Simon and Journey, to its recent culmination in popular apps like VidRhythm and Songify, and group listening services such as Turntable.FM, its evolution continues at a rapid clip. For a look at where music and rhythm gaming is going, and has been, we invite you to have a look at the following excerpt, which reveals just how hard interactive crossovers truly rock.