Virtual rock stars compete for glory

By Andrew Swan

The AMP Your Game National Gaming Tour took place in Mac Hall over April 7-9, and the game was on. With several gaming stations, including Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles on high-definition televisions, the crowd averaged 150 people in the Mac Hall main room.

The highlight of the three-day stop was the Rock Band competition, which drew crowds eager to see the hottest virtual bands in town. While most of the entrant bands remained nameless, their songs were played and listened to eagerly by the excited crowd.

Fueled by AMP energy drinks, the crowd cheered and jeered at the successes and failures of the competing “bands.” When songs began to taper off, the crowd let the bands know just how disappointing they really were as there was no support for any bands that played below acceptable levels.

While virtual bands might not have the allure of actual ones, the experience of the AMP Your Game National Gaming Tour left a pleasant aftertaste. But with opinion swirling around the subject of whether or not competitive gaming can be considered a sport, the tour did nothing to validate that claim.

The Rock Band competition was a spectacle; the competing bands dressed up in skin-tight pants, jean jacket vests and few shirts to be found. Amongst the frenzy of the rabid crowd, the other competing bands mingled with their fans, hoping to gain an edge in the final vote that would secure their fate.

Not much can be said about their actual game performance. Many bands were lackluster, only strengthened by their over-the-top outfits and stage presence. But this is what made the competition so great: the performative aspect of the bands entered into the competition. One lead singer leapt off the stage into the crowd midway through Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer,” another band’s bass player manned his instrument like a true bassist, showing no emotion, his concentration on the notes flying on the screen in front of him.

Was it like a concert? Yes and no. The crowd was definitely into it, the performers were as well. But the skill required to play was always on easy mode, the songs being played over the speakers never failing to miss a note.

Virtual experiences go to great lengths to mimic reality and Rock Band is a great example of people obtaining their 15 minutes of fame, even if it is under virtual pretenses.

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