I gave a talk to a group of teens and their parents several years ago that was entitled Why doesn’t Guitar Hero actually teach you to play Guitar. At the time Guitar Hero was all the rage and it seemed that every kid was playing it (too much according to their parents.) I have always loved video games and Guitar Hero was no different. I played for hours learning some of my favorite tunes and feeling, frankly, like a rock star. The game was creative genius! A normal guy like me was catapulted from zero to superstardom in the time it took to figure out which of my fingers were supposed to push the red, green, yellow, or blue buttons in rhythm to the music. The guitar shaped controller added to the fantasy, while the game built the experience of the audience beautifully! I really felt like a rock star! And that is the point of the game. Supplant the reality of hundreds of hours of practice to learn to play the guitar, and jump right to the euphoric feelings of being a great musician. The strange part for me was that anyone who was any good at guitar hero played it for hundreds of hours. Literally putting in the time necessary to build the real skills of playing a real guitar. But they didn’t! Some got so good at Guitar Hero that playing the controller became an art unto itself.
I know kids lean fast but how long does it take to learn to do that. Amazing!
So I’m reading through All Things D this morning and I see this sidebar video about a company called Instinct that has built a web application that runs entirely through the browser and teaches you how to play the guitar. I haven’t tried the application yet but my assumption is that this is going to be a lot like the traditional method of hundreds of hours of practice to become really proficient at playing the guitar. I am hoping that Blake and Brian have learned the lesson of Guitar Hero and will build and interface that satisfies all of our needs to be lauded far beyond the actual reaches of or accomplishments. For example when I finally do get the easy version of Mary had a little lamb out it would be nice if the on screen graphics showed a wowed audience cheering my success as though I had just learned Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption. I think this is how you keep people coming back for more. No one wants to be motivated by pain and suffering. We all want to hear the positive feedback of our screaming fans, get fan mail on our Facebook pages and hear our twitter tag mentioned and then retweeted. The technology is already in place to make this a reality. Check out the video.
If I were building a web application to teach kids (we are all kids at heart) how to play guitar I would build the app like guitar hero. Avatars and all. Build the fantasy in deep. Make sure the audience is there wanting more. The teacher has to be your biggest fan, in fact they should probably lead your fan club. the app has to integrate with Facebook. Each time you reach an accomplishment it has to automatically go on you wall with a cool certificate or trophy. The app needs to integrate with twitter and automatically tweet practice hours and successful milestone events. I guess what I am saying is that perhaps its time for our applications to take a game like feel into a real world audience. We can mix fantasy and reality just fine in this world. I am very excited about the changes that are coming in applications. I have always believed that technology should make a real difference in peoples lives. Instinct is taking one of those Steps down that path. I love it!