Happy Video Game Day! In A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players, Jesper Juul provides fresh insights into the history and development of video games. Here’s an excerpt from the book that talks about Guitar Hero:
Guitar Hero is similar to chess in that it serves two very different functions: it can be played as an intensive game by players who wish to master the game on expert difficulty setting or to partake in competitions.
- The fiction of Guitar Hero refers to a well-known stereotype of over-the-top rock music styles and musician poses.
- The basic activity of playing guitar is well known by players, and the mimetic interface mimics that activity with a high degree of compatibility, making the game very usable.
- The time investment can be either low or high depending on what the player is trying to achieve. The game can technically be paused at any time, but in terms of fitting into a player's life, the moderate length of a game session is more important.
- Concerning difficulty, Guitar Hero sets a relatively low bar for completing a given song while presenting a range of measurements of how well the player performs. This means that if a player only is interested in playing a song on a low difficulty setting, he or she is not forced to replay that song. On the other hand, if the player wants to complete the game, play on higher difficulty levels, or achieve a high score, the game punishes failure very harshly by forcing the player to replay a song until it has been mastered.
- Guitar Hero is an extremely juicy game, featuring large amounts of positive feedback for everything from the isolated action of pressing a single button, to correctly hitting a long sequence of notes, to crowds cheering the superior performance.
In other words, Guitar Hero has basic similarities with chess in that it matches casual game design principles if the player is only trying to play a song or two without worrying about achieving a high score or completing the game. If the player tries to complete the game or achieve a high score, the time investment and difficulty tolerance required from the game become decidedly non-casual.