5 days ago
Sunday, January 18, 2009
The Pitfalls of Video-Gaming
Over the last few days, I was considering writing a review of the latest in the Guitar Hero series: Guitar Hero World Tour. It's a good game, even though it's more like Rock Band than Guitar Hero. Some of the songs on there aren't to my tastes, so I'm not in the least interested in perfecting my performance of them. But the same goes for everybody else that will play the game. The new finger-tapping is a good feature. I also like how the Career track is less linear than before. If there is a song, or a group of songs, you're not that into, you can in some instances skip them and go to the next set list. That's a nice feature, because no matter how into music you are, you're not going to like every random song some game developers picked for you to play. Finally, the song selection offers a nice mix of music from the last forty years.
I have some suggestions for the next installment:
Less songs featuring arpeggio. They're not fun to play. Think of songs with good riffs and blistering solos.
If you like the Guitar Hero series in general, you'll like this one.
Okay, with that out of the way, back to business. When I was researching for the post I didn't end up writing, i.e. reading the back of the Guitar Hero World Tour cover, I remembered that Activision co-produced the game. They brought us a little game called Pitfall!.
Twenty-seven years ago, Pitfall! was the game to play. If you owned an Atari, you owned Pitfall!. Probably in an attempt to cash in on the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Activision developed this game as a jungle adventure, in which our hero "Pitfall Harry" ran screen-to-screen in an attempt to collect all the treasures within a certain time period. Death waited for Harry on every screen in the form of snakes, scorpions, crocodiles, fire, tar pits, quicksand, rolling logs, and water. Yes, water. Harry was quite physically fit, adept at vine-swinging and jumping onto crocodiles, but he apparently never went to the pool at the Y while he was a member. Michael Phelps he was not.
To think that video games have gone from Pitfall! to Guitar Hero for as long as I've been alive is mind-blowing and a bit scary. Games like Pitfall! were designed as escapist fun. As a kid, I remember playing it and then going out into the backyard and running around like I was Pitfall Harry.
Nowadays, though, I don't think video games have the same effect. It seems like gamers would rather learn how to beat the expert level of Guitar Hero than learn how to play a guitar. When I was a wee lad, I couldn't travel to the jungles of South America, chase after treasure, and avoid death at every turn, so living those dreams vicariously (and safely) through Pitfall! made all the sense in the world. If I was a kid today and remotely interested in music, I think I would have begged and begged my parents for a guitar and some lessons rather than a video game.
On the other hand, video games are getting better in that they require players to be more active. I read somewhere that the Wii is a favorite among retirees, and some studies have shown its benefits in physical rehabilitation. People my age, who grew up on video games, are now purchasing the Wii Fit game as a way to exercise.
So there you have it. Video games can be bad and can be good, and they've changed a lot through twenty-seven years. I'll bet none of you knew that already.