According to scorehero.com, on June 3, 2008, a Guitar Hero III player using the screen name iamchris4life completed what is claimed to be the first documented FC of “Through the Fire and Flames” on Expert. For those unfamiliar with GH3 lingo, this means that he successfully played all of the notes in the song and maintained an average score multiplier of 4x on the incredibly demanding song by the British metal band Dragonforce. This is amazing news for GH players, to be sure, but I mention it because of the surprising amount of hate being slung his way by so-called “real musicians” on gaming website message boards.
Well, I’m a ”real musician,” and I want to shake this guy’s hand.
I really didn’t want to come back to this topic. I have already written about my ongoing obsession with all things Guitar Hero (and now, Rock Band), and I’m sure my friends are starting to get tired of me talking about it. But when someone says things like, “The fact alone that I play a real instrument automatically makes me better than him,” I feel the need to put the jerk in his place.
Let me put what Chris has done in some perspective for the uninitiated. “TTF&F” is the Holy Grail of GH3. It’s arguably the hardest song in the game, running a fast and furious 7+ minutes. The song on Easy mode contains 1,102 notes, about twice as many as most of the other songs in the game; I’ve only managed 1,095 of them so far, developing the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome in the process. On Expert, there are 3,722 of them. That’s 531 notes per minute; almost nine per second. And aside from one spot where you get to play some long power chords to rest, those 3,722 notes are non-stop.
I’ve been playing musical instruments since I was 9 years old. I have a bachelor’s degree in Music Education, and I’ve been composing, arranging and conducting for a local concert band for many years. I feel certain that all of this makes me a “real musician.” For the last two months I’ve been playing GH3, and I have an idea of what Chris has gone through to become so proficient. The dexterity and hand-eye coordination required to play this game at a high level is extraordinary, not to mention the endurance and concentration needed to perfect one’s skills so that accomplishing the “TTF&F” full combo can even be contemplated.
So what’s with all the derision? Why do people such as the one I quoted earlier (that’s a direct quote, by the way) feel they have such a sense of superiority over gamers such as iamchris4life? Is Guitar Hero a guitar simulator? Of course not. There’s much more involved with playing the real instrument. Your fingers have to move both horizontally and vertically over the fretboard, and there’s a tuning problem that GH players don’t have to face. But to dismiss out of hand a GH player’s accomplishments merely because he’s playing a plastic guitar controller denies him the respect due to someone who has dedicated a large chunk of his young life to be great at something he loves to do. And that’s just not right.
So Chris, from me and everyone out there who applauds your latest feat: Congrats, and keep on rockin’!