Today, Harmonix announced that after over five years of weekly song releases, they would no longer release new downloadable songs for Rock Band after April 2nd.
This news has left me rather heartbroken. There are very few other pieces of media that have left as big an impact on my life as Rock Band did.
The first Harmonix game I played was Guitar Hero II, which was released in late 2006 on the PlayStation 2 and early 2007 on the Xbox 360. In my freshman year of high school, one of my newly-acquired friends was trying to sell his copy of the 360 version, and I snatched it up. I had heard a lot of great things about it, but it was expensive new , so this was my first opportunity to actually play it.
That game changed my life. Before Guitar Hero II, I didn’t listen to too much music: the odd movie soundtrack, some Weird Al, and a scant amount of ska. Through playing the game, I was introduced to an incredible range of rock music: classic metal, electropop, early alternative, good indie, progressive, southern, rockabilly, punk, grunge, and loads of others.1 And I was ecstatic. In a way stupidly reminiscent of Rush’s “2112″, all this music left me in kind of a catatonic wonder. I slowly started expanding the musics I listened to.
It wasn’t until I started playing Rock Band on Christmas of 2007 that it really started kicking in, though. That game had a similar setlist to Guitar Hero II (with a bit more emphasis on party playability), but it was the downloadable song selection that massively expanded the music I liked. The early packs and singles properly introduced me to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Blink-182, Oasis, the Grateful Dead, Boston, and way too many more to list. Later DLC taught me the wonders of the Pixies, The Cars, the Dead Kennedys, the lesser-known Queen tracks, and even made me enjoy Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy (two bands that were then considered taboo to like amongst certain crowds). From later releases, The Beatles: Rock Band was my first experience with one of the greatest bands of all time, and the Rock Band Network gave me my first taste of some bands I greatly enjoy today, like Rodrigo y Gabriela. Rock Band also led me to explore more music on my own, which gave rise to my current love of electronic and piano music. It even led me to actually start going to concerts.
Without Harmonix and Rock Band, none of this would have happened. Despite how maligned the “faux-realistic” rhythm games are2, I am proud to say that they are, without a doubt, some of my favorite games of all time and the reason I enjoy so much music now. Thanks for the memories, Harmonix, and godspeed.3
In order: “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath, “Less Talk More Rokk” by Freezepop, “Stop” by Jane’s Addiction, “Soy Bomb” by Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Dealer Incentives, “YYZ” by Rush, “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Rock This Town” by Stray Cats, “Search and Destroy” by Iggy Pop and the Stooges, and “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains. ↩
For a rather enjoyable explanation as to why, see “Guitar Hero Hero (Beating Guitar Hero Does Not Make You Slash)” by MC Lars. ↩
I say this only because HMX’s other currently-available IP is Dance Central, and I just don’t enjoy it all too much. Kinect games are weird. ↩