Wow! Club Mixes Are the New Guitar Jam

More info! Another interesting article on how the music industry has changed over time.

Ref: New York Times

Along with World of Warcraft (introduced in 2004) and the Wii (2006), the Guitar Hero franchise and its progeny Rock Band have been the most important commercial drivers of video gaming’s leap into the cultural mainstream over the last half-decade.

Upon its debut in 2005, Guitar Hero resonated with both traditional gamers and their nongaming friends. Like the Wii, Guitar Hero helped rescue games from basements and kids’ rooms by creating a captivating, easily accessible version of a familiar activity that an entire family could enjoy in the living room. With the Wii those activities were bowling and tennis. With Guitar Hero and Rock Band it was playing rock music.

Rock and its variants have formed perhaps the broadest common musical denominator over the last couple of generations. But since the late 1970s, music associated mostly with D.J.’s and studio producers rather than with men playing electric guitars has spawned global cultures of its own.

Now hip-hop, electronica, techno and house music finally get their turn as a game with DJ Hero, developed by FreeStyleGames in Britain and released this week by Activision for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii consoles. Anchored by a spectacular and altogether groovy collection of original mixes, DJ Hero will certainly be the life of millions of parties around the world.

That is because while Guitar Hero and Rock Band are mostly about playing the game, DJ Hero is mostly about unleashing the music. By virtue of the different genres it taps into, DJ Hero will obviously appeal to a different, if overlapping, audience from the guitar games’. But by virtue of its design it will also be experienced differently, and perhaps even more widely, than its rock ’n’ roll predecessors.

Here’s why: Generally in the guitar games, if you miss enough notes the song abruptly ends. In DJ Hero, no matter how badly you actually play the game, the overall song mix continues to the end. Likewise, the guitar games are set up like, well, games — after each song, the action stops and you choose the next song. DJ Hero is set up as a collection of relatively seamless set lists, with each mix progressing automatically to the next.

You can even create custom set lists and enter DJ Hero’s party mode, so the music plays by itself. Connect your game system to your stereo and you’ve got a killer party soundtrack. A friend watched me play recently and asked, “Can you buy these mixes off iTunes?” You cannot, but I can foresee people playing the mixes from DJ Hero into digital recorders and then listening to them and playing them for friends without the game itself.

I’m not sure if that would be legal. But I am sure that there is almost no chance your local weekend spinner can create anything nearly as tight and funky as the mixes in DJ Hero. And that is because FreeStyleGames brought in some of the world’s top D.J.’s to create the mixes in the game, led by DJ Shadow and including Cut Chemist, the duo Daft Punk, DJ Yoda, the collective the Scratch Perverts, DJ Jazzy Jeff, J.Period, DJ Z-Trip, DJ AM (who died in August) and Grandmaster Flash. (DJ AM’s incredible hip-shaking mix of “Poison,” by Bell Biv DeVoe, with the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” may be my favorite in the game and is a wonderful epitaph for him.)

Over all the game includes more than 90 new mixes using more than 100 songs, from Eminem to Jay-Z (who consulted on the game) to Herbie Hancock, Beck, Isaac Hayes, Young MC, David Bowie, Tupac Shakur, Tears for Fears, Blondie and 50 Cent.

The gameplay itself is challenging. The plastic fake turntable included with the game feels sturdy enough, but you will almost certainly spend hours mastering your skills at sampling, scratching and cross-fading with precision before you can earn decent scores on the medium-difficulty setting or above. The beginner and easy modes are much less punishing, however, and there is no need to step up to the more taxing settings to unlock the game’s full soundtrack.

DJ Hero may not be a game an entire family will be clamoring to play, but it is certainly capable of entertaining an entire room full of people even though only one person, or no one, is playing. Like its guitar-driven ancestors it belongs firmly in the living room, albeit a noisy one.

One Response to “Wow! Club Mixes Are the New Guitar Jam”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *