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Harmonix: Games can help people to understand music "from the inside"

Chris Foster believes that interactivity offers an insight into the mind of the artist

Harmonix' Director of Design has told GamesIndustry.biz that he believes the interactivity found in titles such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band enable players to get closer to music tracks than they would by simply listening alone.

Chris Foster, who is a musician himself and formed a company band on joining Harmonix two years ago, feels that it's possible for gamers to get an insight into the mind of the artist.

"What I found interesting as a musician is that when you play the songs, from the simple art of the note patterns following the music and when you hear the occasion notes drop out, you're actually sort of understanding the music from the inside.

"It's not talked about a lot in terms of the games, but you're experiencing the music like you can't in any other way - you're given these breadcrumbs into the composition itself, into the skill of the individual artist, that I just think is a wonderful opportunity.

"And I suspect some musicians actually see it that way - it's not just putting the package out there, you're actually letting people appreciate their contributions to the song I guess."

What's more, he believes that people coming to games with one set of favourite bands are being exposed - and enjoying - types of music they wouldn't have normally considered.

"I wonder if it creates a deeper emotional bond," he mused at the recent GDC Paris event. "You're right, in the same time frame it's much more intense. I think it helps people to love the music.

"You can see it in the forums, people are asking why they'd play this old classic rock song, it's not their thing. But then you see people with lists of 30 bands that they now listen to thanks to playing Rock Band - you just earn, or learn, an appreciation of these things."

And he also revealed that he'd like to see more benefit to consumers through greater compatibility of music title peripherals which are threatening to overrun people's lives.

"I think it would be interesting to see with each generation of games - as much as developers allow compatibility across titles, and backwards compatibility - you have a lot of potential for people to be able to take on new experiences with their hardware," he said.

"I have limits in my living room of how much plastic I will leave in there, and so I really hope we get to a place where there's a certain stability in at least the core functionality. We have instruments other people can use and I'd love to see something like an Xbox Live Arcade game that uses a guitar controller, or the drums, for another experience.

"And really make it so that it's less about getting that new shipping crate of peripherals, and more about maybe taking the old guitar out to do this new thing, and play these new songs," he added.

Harmonix has a compelling track record in the music titles genre, with first Guitar Hero and now Rock Band launching lucrative, best-selling franchises.

Our complete interview with Chris Foster is now online.

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