CHICAGO (Reuters) - The success of video games for wannabe rockers has prompted a new wave of music games -- ones that actually teach players how to really play music.
Harmonix, the game developer that created the first two Activision "Guitar Hero" games and now works on MTV Games' "Rock Band" franchise, has put musical instruction in its latest game.
"Rock Band 3" introduces a new Pro mode that helps players move from rhythm gameplay to actually developing real-life musical skills on the keyboard, drums and guitar.
"Featuring instrument-specific instruction on everything from theory to hand positioning to chording, 'Rock Band 3' lets interested players start to gain real-life instrument technique while having fun at the same time," said Alex Rigopulos, CEO and co-founder, Harmonix.
"We've worked with (guitar company) Fender and the Berklee College of Music to help strengthen and validate our work."
The game also supports three expansion cymbals for its drum set, introduces a keyboard to the band, and works with a number of new hybrid guitar controllers that double as actual guitars.
Harmonix and guitar company Fender collaborated on a real guitar controller that allows gamers to plug the guitar into an amplifier and simultaneously rock to the video game's soundtrack.
New game developer Seven45 Studios is introducing more than a real guitar controller with "Power Gig: Rise of the SixString."
In addition to being compatible as a gaming controller for both "Rock Band " and "Guitar Hero," the controller comes with its own story-driven game experience complete with 70 songs.
"Because Power Gig's SixString guitar controller is a real, working instrument, not only does it feel more real in your hands and empower you with its authenticity, it also gets you used to the feel of the strings on your fingertips and holding the weight of a guitar on your shoulder," said Seven45 Studios' CEO and Chairman Bernard Chiu.
"When playing Power Gig's 'Chording Mode' you are tasked with playing the actual power chords in each song, so once the game is turned off you are walking away with guitar fundamentals that have been learned through mastering the game."
Inspired Instruments' "You Rock Guitar" is also offering an interactive way to learn how to play guitar.
Kevin Kent, co-founder and CEO of the company, helped develop the MIDI guitar, polyphonic synthesizer and digital drum machine in the music world.
"You can start playing over the blues and rock progressions in the 'You Rock Mode' immediately," said Kent. "The 'You Rock Guitar' does not hurt your fingers while playing, never needs tuning and you can jam right out of the box -- and you can use it as a controller to play 'Rock Band' and 'Guitar Hero'games."
This blending of real instruments with virtual experiences comes as budget cuts slash music programs in many schools.
"I think that's really a travesty to know that America is losing its music programs in school," said Dave Mustaine, lead vocalist/guitarist for Megadeth, who wrote the theme song to the new "Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock."
KISS frontman Gene Simmons, who narrates the new Quest mode in "Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock" as the Demi God, believes music games can help change that and get children into music.
"You put 'Guitar Hero' in school and those young people are going to want to stick around and play this because it's a full-body experience and it self-empowers you. All of a sudden your imagination grows and you start to imagine yourself as a rock star," said Simmons.
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith