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The Future of Music Games – Look Ma, No Buttons!

Back when I was in college, I was exposed to a little title known as Guitar Hero. I mistakenly believed that buying this game at finals time would be excellent way to unwind when I wasn’t studying my little ass off. I was sorely mistaken, as the best of us often are. Pretty soon studying wasn’t happening, but there is always a flip side. I managed to complete “Bark at the Moon” on hard mode before going home for the summer.

Since college, we’ve seen massive jumps forward for music games, in difficulty and in hardware. Rock Band pushed the envelope with drum and microphone compatibility, and the industry has now made this the standard. For a few years it has held at this point, but no longer. As you look at the above picture of a couple of average guys playing Rock Band, squint and take a close look at their hands (alternatively, just look at the second image). That’s right. Those are not buttons. Those are real six string guitars, and they are wired up to be compatible with PS3 and Wii versions of all music games.

A company called Open Chord has created a little device you can attach to the guitar strings to turn any electric six string into a game controller. With the accompanying program, you can choose to play your favorite music game in three different modes. In “fret mode,” you play the proper frets to hit the proper notes, much like the current norm. In “chord mode,” you set different chords to different color combinations. You can actually practice your chord progressions and start learning skills used in real guitar while playing the game. Lastly, you can use “note mode,” where specific notes are programmed to the specific colors and you’ll be fingering up and down the neck of the guitar until your hand is sore. If you can remember which note is which, that is.

This device is going to be available through OpenChord.org and will cost $35. The program that it uses is available, and the whole thing is open source. That’s right. Players can tweak the program to their choosing, and will be able to program their own chord and note patterns in.

The whole thing seems very complicated, but worthwhile for those who are looking to get just a little bit more out of their music games.

Additionally, a newer company called Seven45 is putting out a standalone game called Power Gig: Rise of the Six String. The guitar controller that is packaged with it is actually a six string in itself, and it seems it will function much in the same way as the above device although company representatives have revealed that they are also planning to incorporate power chords into game play. They were relatively tight-lipped about the project’s details, but said that gameplay, as well as the game’s other peripherals, will be revealed this year at E3. Their website is currently online with minimal content at www.powergig.com.

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