Rhythm Games: Dead, Alive, or Just Out of Sync?

On February 9, the video game development/production company, Activision, disbanded Guitar Hero’s publishing unit.  In other words, the company that made the Guitar Hero games decided to discontinue the series (Steimer, 2011).  This news sent a shock through the video game industry and, more importantly, the developers of rhythm video games.  With just a quick press release, the party game that we all know and love was no more.  But does this mean that entire genre of rhythm games is going extinct.  Maybe.  Or perhaps rhythm games just need a new direction.  The Guitar Hero series had been around for 6 years.  With over 10 versions of the game, players wanted something new, something different, something revolutionary.  So what could be next?  With the recent demise of the Guitar Hero franchise, things may seem bleak for rhythm video games.  But there are games on the horizon that suggest otherwise.

Dance Central is a game that was released this past November for Xbox 360’s Kinect peripheral.  For those of you who don’t know, Kinect is an additional piece of hardware for the Xbox 360 that allows players to interact with video games “…in extraordinary new ways without using a controller.” (Microsoft, 2011).  In Dance Central¸ players interact with on-screen commands and characters to learn dance moves based on popular songs and music videos.  The song list ranges from the Commodores’ 70s classic “Brick House” to modern hits, such as “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas (Harmonix, 2010).  In addition, extra dance routines and songs can be purchased from Xbox LIVE.

http://www.dancecentral.com/media

Another important, but very different, music video game is Child of Eden.  According to IGN, Child of Eden is an upcoming game for the Xbox 360 that plans to combine rhythm, action, and motion sensor technology (Goldstein, 2010).  While there are very few details about the game at this point, if it can successfully cover all three of these aspects, it could prove to be a very interesting game.  Child of Eden’s predecessor, Rez, had a set soundtrack, but I think it would be great if the developers added the option for players to import their own music.  If that could also be achieved, Child of Eden would be absolutely groundbreaking in terms of video games, music, and motion sensor technology.

http://xbox360.ign.com/dor/objects/14354640/eden/images/child-of-eden-20100927103656143.html

Let’s face it, Dance Central and Child of Eden aren’t completely different from the likes of Guitar Hero.  All three games have music, licensed or not, that the player has to move in rhythm to.  The major difference, however, is the gameplay.  Dance Central requires players to dance with their entire body while Guitar Hero only required the motion of a two hands.  Child of Eden also incorporates the player’s entire body, but requires them to shoot objects to the rhythm of the music.  Guitar Hero, on the other hand, simply required players to press colored buttons at the same time they appeared on the screen.

While the Guitar Hero franchise has ended, other new ones have just begun.  Dance Central, Child of Eden, and other upcoming titles are likely to change the face of rhythm video games for years to come.  And it won’t stop there.  With technology rapidly advancing, who knows what the video game companies will think of next.  Maybe the next generation of rhythm video games will be controlled not just by the player’s body, but also by the player’s mind.  Rhythm games are not dead.  They just need to be re-synched to match public appeal.

References

Goldstein, H. (2010). E3 2010: Child of eden preview. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://uk.xbox360.ign.com/articles/109/1098711p1.html

Harmonix Music Systems. (2010). Dance central songs. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://www.dancecentral.com/songs

Microsoft Corporation. (2011). Kinect. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://www.xbox.com/en-US/kinect

Steimer, K. (2011). Activision axes guitar hero and true crime. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/114/1148687p1.html

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