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Guitar Hero’s Intriguing Past

Resurrecting a dead game?

The forgotten game I would propose to analyse is the 2008-2009 series Guitar Hero: On Tour. This game was a staple of my childhood, and I fondly remember playing it on my Nintendo DS Lite. Rather than an individual title, I think an analysis of the series would provide a broader overview of the game, specifically allowing the target audience to be more easily identified due to the varying concepts and song choices throughout.

Guitar Hero: On Tour trailer

To analyse the series, I would start with focusing on the key structuralist elements, the hardware controls and their relation to gameplay mechanics plus the User Interface (UI). Vicarious Visions worked to develop a unique ‘guitar grip’ that utilised the Game Boy Advance port present in the DS or DS Lite. This grip made the game stand out from competitors and changed gameplay considerably, so it is something essential to consider when analysing the series. Also important is the touch-screen controls, with the provided ‘pick’ allowing for immersive gameplay and linking to the paratextual elements of the text.
The UI is also an area of interest, as it was changed between the 2nd and 3rd instillations of the series to appeal to a broader audience – studying these changes and their effectiveness could be a viable area to peruse.

Guitar Hero: On Tour UI vs Guitar Hero: Modern Hits UI

As Carr (2009) states “both structural analysis and textual analysis are relevant to game studies” keeping this in mind, the next focus area proposed is paratext and its impact on the audiences’ understanding of the text. An essential element of the series is the song choices throughout. Each installation has an obvious focus.

Perry the platypus playing guitar – via tenor
  • On tour began the series and focused on a mainstream ‘pop-friendly crowd
  • Decades explored rock music throughout the ages
  • Modern hits was comprised of songs released after 2000 and had many more regional song options

An exploration of these key elements will allow the game to be analysed on both a structural and textual level, contrasting the physical elements of the games against the developers’ music choices and considering their impact on the audience. Since games “have a cultural background that needs to be excavated” (Huhtamo, 2005 in Slots of Fun, Slots of Trouble: An Archaeology of Arcade Gaming) these elements will be critical in discovering the audience framework.

Deciding the game and key elements to focus on

To make the game relevant to a public audience I’d focus on streaming the game using a unique setup. Rather than just streaming the DS screen I’d see if it was possible to stream the screen while also providing a zoomed-out video of the guitar grip and pic as I played. I think this would work to keep viewers interested and separate the stream from others in the rhythm game genre.

South Park – via tenor

If possible, it would also be worth comparing the series to newer instillations in the Guitar Hero franchise, as this could draw a larger audience and generate more interest in the older series. Working off the nostalgia of the audience would also be something to focus on, as the aesthetic for the stream could be based around the iconic Guitar Hero fonts and the like.

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