My love affair with Rock Band

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I was really bummed to hear that Rock Band was ceasing their DLC as of this month. I know the next gen consoles are right around the corner and all but Rock Band is by far the game in which I have invested the most money, sweat and tears, so to see that chapter come to an end is kind of sad.

Bang Your Head

Just to be clear, I’m including Guitar Hero in this timeline because in many ways it’s the same game and in a couple cases it was made and supported by the same people, Harmonix. Rock Band built on top of the Guitar Hero success by adding a microphone and drum set, allowing players to do more than just play fake plastic guitars.

I remember the first time I saw Guitar Hero II demo at the store. It was just this tiny (and I mean tiny) plastic guitar with a few buttons on it and a little whammy bar. I didn’t even have to play it to know that this was a game made just for me. My love of music combined with constant quest for innovative game play meant love at first sight. No other game since our brief DDR period had gotten me to move more than Guitar Hero. I was rocking out hard nightly jumping off the couch playing along with The Stooges, Guns N Roses, The Who and more…and back then it didn’t even matter that they were all cover versions of my favorite songs. Guitar Hero became my obsession for the next five years…a long time to continue playing any game.

Angry Edison, more than a good band name

I took pride in my love for Guitar Hero. I customized my guitar with sticker designs I made myself…and naturally, I blogged about it. The band name I used in the games was “Angry Edison” so naturally I gave my blog the same thing (and later it would become my Xbox Live username). Of course, I wasn’t the only person in love with the GH franchise and having a web site at that time proved a good idea even if it was somewhat unintentional. Soon my Angry Edison web site became a top stop for those looking for Guitar Hero stickers and designs. I quickly had an audience and then something wonderful happened.

Guitar Hero

One of my guitar stickers that led to some brief fame.

Guitar Hero 3 was released in 2007 and with promises of online play and DLC, it was a no-brainer to keep on rockin’ down the Guitar Hero highway. Unfortunately, the online play and DLC didn’t happen with GH3 but that didn’t stop me from building my own little online game around its success. I turned the Angry Edison web site into an online tournament center for Guitar Hero 3. People would sign-up and enter a tournament that featured specific songs, usually selected around some sort of theme. They would have to play the songs between a certain time period and then my web site would grab their scores from the Guitar Hero web site. (I find it funny that we were able to post scores online through the game but couldn’t compete online. Oh well.) The Angry Edison tournaments were hot stuff for the life of GH3 to the point where I had sponsors and was giving out weekly prizes to winners. It was all a lot of fun but all good things must come to an end.

Even though Guitar Hero 3 provided a lot of fun for myself and others, it did leave somewhat of a bad taste in my mouth due the lack of promised features. It also didn’t help that I had fallen out of love with the Wii as well, so those two factors combined and I was decidedly done with the Guitar Hero franchise. Thankfully by that time Harmonix had moved onto creating Rock Band, which was basically Guitar Hero plus drums. I had given up on Guitar Hero and took a little break from the whole scene. Keeping Angry Edison running was hard work and I needed a little break. but once I got my Xbox 360, Rock Band 2 was the only game I wanted (well, that and Call of Duty).

Rock Band steals the show

By this time everyone had figured out how to online play, DLC and even online tournaments so I didn’t need to worry about creating anything…I could just focus on having fun with the game, and that’s just what I did. But quite possibly the greatest thing about Rock Band is that I could play with my wife and she wouldn’t just be playing to humor me. She loves music as much as I do and also enjoys singing along so putting a microphone in her hand was pretty natural, and we quickly had the only game we needed…well, that and Rock Band, Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Beatles.

As if buying a $200+ dollar game with fake plastic instruments wasn’t enough, the DLC for Rock Band was near infinite and was easily the game’s biggest draw. Instead of being stuff with the few dozen songs included with the game, you could download games for $2 a pop, letting you pick-and-choose your favorites. If you loved pop music you could get all of those artists…or if country music was your thing, there was plenty of it, but for us it was rock music all the way.

Money well spent

Right now my RB3 music library has more than 200 individual DLC songs and at a $2 per song that’s at least $400 invested in the games in addition to the $200 for the initial game. Now if you had asked me to pay $600+ for a single video game I’d say you’re crazy but there you go…it happened and it was worth every penny. No other game has meant more to me than these music games. They provided a wonderful and exciting alternative to the first-person shooter games that everyone else was playing at the time. Guitar Hero and Rock Band hit the ultimate sweet spot for me and my family…the perfect cross between video games and music, two of our favorite hobbies.

The only complain I ever had about Rock Band was the absence of some of our favorite artists from the DLC library. I know that getting licenses for recordings from record labels and stuff couldn’t have been easy (or cheap) but I always held out hope that the bands I love would end up in Rock Band. Some did, some didn’t.

Here are some of my most played RB songs.

  • Hold On Loosely, 38 Special
  • In the Meantime, Spacehog
  • Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden
  • Say It Ain’t So, Weezer
  • Take it on the Run, REO Speedwagon
  • Foreplay/Long Time, Boston
  • Limelight, Rush
  • Round and Round, Ratt
  • Don’t Go Away Mad, Motley Crue

At large I’m mostly a guitar/bass player when it comes to Rock Band but that doesn’t mean I don’t love banging on the drums. Beating fake drums with sticks is a lot of fun but sometimes I just need the freedom to run around the room and only the fake plastic Fender gives me that option. And Lord knows you don’t want to put a mic in my hand.

As for songs and artists missing from the Rock Band franchise, that list is pretty much endless. Any RB fan has their short list of bands that never made it to the game for some reason or another…here’s my hit list.

  • Tesla, easily the biggest hole in the Rock Band library
  • The Raspberries, maybe a little too “bubblegum” to some but it’d be fun to play
  • Ratt, because they have more than just Round and Round
  • Guns N Roses, because we all know Chinese Democracy doesn’t count
  • Manic Street Preachers, just one of the many Brit bands that got snubbed
  • U2, hey Bono, less Pope time, more video game time

Again, that list could go on and on but those are the ones that would top my list. It’s amazing that Rock Band was able to offer weekly DLC for upwards of five years. Every week was met with great anticipation as to what artists would be made available, always hoping it would be one from my list of hopefuls.

The music will never die

Despite the end of DLC and thus the effective end to Rock Band and the music genre at large, I’m thankful that we’ll be able to continue playing Rock Band without worry and even continue to buy songs from the exhaustive DLC library already in existence.

I’ve been playing video games for close to 30 years at this point and I can safely and happily say that no other title has brought more fun and endless hours of enjoyment than Guitar Hero & Rock Band…and no other game has cost me more, but it was all worth it and I would have been happy to continue giving them my money. So all I can say is, thank you, Rock Band. Rock on.

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About Author

Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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