Video games and music are a seemingly unlikely couple, however considering that they are two of the most entertaining things people love to do, its little surprise that the two mediums sometimes look to each other for inspiration. It only takes a short play of Mass Effect or a brief listen to John Lennon to work out there are some wonderful ideas out there.
This is no new relationship, musical games have been around for as long as the medium has existed. Only recently however, have people started to take the musical games seriously, as more than an irritating semi-musical tapping game and as a viable way to develop the same skills needed to master an instrument.
New research strongly suggests that the same areas of the brain that are developed within musicians after years of practice may be able to be targeted by specially designed musical games, and that many games might already be doing so. It’s true, video games are no longer a way to waste time, there is a lot of evidence to suggest they could be pretty good for you!
Here’s a few that might have been training your brain to be a musician without you even knowing.
Who remembers this brilliant little game from their childhood? This innovative game released on the original Playstation in 1998 may look simplistic but works incredibly similarly to today’s music production software. Using a library of pre-recorded samples in the same key, the game allowed you to arrange theses samples to create a song.
Despite the retro graphics, this game and its various sequels introduced gamers to musical composition and gave them a feel for how to use musical production software which today has helped many budding musicians reach stardom from their bedrooms.
Who knows how many dance music legends started out on this game without even knowing it!
 Parappa the rapper
Parappa the Rapper has to be one of the trippiest games ever to be released. Where else can you have a rap battle against a 2D onion dojo master?
Despite its off the wall themes and styling, this game sparked the trend of timing based gaming. The objective being to press the correct button at the correct time. It is not difficult to see how this translates to real life physical instruments, developing not only a sense of timing but a rudimentary experience of sight reading. Many games have taken their cues from this style of gaming since.
It’s also one of the best games to grace the original Playstation, if you fancy a retro gaming session and revisiting your childhood check out this game.
 Rock band
Bridging the gap between air guitar aficionados and people who want more of the real thing is Rock Band.
Following on from its early incarnations as Guitar Hero, this game extended the experience allowing play with multiple guitars, drums and a singer. This is really as close to playing a real instrument as a gamer can get without actually picking up a guitar, whilst still having the freedom to swing a guitar around your head in your living room.
Although still vastly simplified, this game develops great hand eye coordination that is important for playing both guitar and drums. The on screen commands develop a sense of timing that on the more advanced settings can train the gamer fairly accurately to real life.
The bane of grumpy neighbours and embarrassed husbands everywhere, Singstar allows you to momentarily become a singing sensation regardless of your vocal talent.
That said however, Singstar works towards accurately developing your voice. The interface displays which pitch you should hit along with the lyrics; this is reminiscent of a musical stave and the software can judge whether you are hitting the correct notes fairly accurately.
So the next time you witness some members of a Hen Do butcher your favourite ballad, take solace in the fact that thanks to this game the next time they give it a try they might nail it.
This app is surely one of the most mind blowing inventions of this century, yet sadly is no longer available.
The app itself creates “reactive music”, which basically means the software changes the music depending on your immediate environment or “scene”. Using the sensors and microphones of the iphone, the music reacts to the user’s real world experience. Its like you’re in a computer game the whole time!
From a technological standpoint it represents the future of music games, in that it is a social experience. Games such as this allow record companies to build loyalty with their fans and maintain a near constant connection with them. Also offering virtual goods within the games or even real incentives such as merchandise and gig tickets, they can keep fans interested and immersed in the musical experience.
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