For the first time in a long time was happy and excited about a local event, a Rock Band tournament held at COSI, the local science museum. I was ready. I had bandmates lined up and a song all picked out. I was ready to put on a show and maybe even win. But then they went and messed everything up – the canceled the tournament and replaced it with another tournament, Guitar Hero.
Now I’ll admit the differences between Guitar Hero and Rock Band are minor when it all comes down to it, but fact of the matter is I own Rock Band 2 and don’t own Guitar Hero. And I’m one that believes you can’t put on a good show unless you know your music and your routine, thus I did not enter the tournament. But let’s back up a little bit…
Back in February I heard that COSI was hosting a Rock Band tournament. Awesome, and better yet it was setup as an 18 and over event. The last thing I really wanted was to enter a tournament crowded by a bunch of teenagers. For what it was worth, I even had a small hand in helping the PR lady at COSI with rules and planning. At that point in time the whole thing felt very rushed. It was obvious soon that the people at COSI had no idea what they were doing. I’m not even sure any of them had played a Rock Band or Guitar Hero game before.
Even then, however, I give them HUGE, HUGE props for at least setting up a game tournament. An organized tournament is something this town has needed for a long time. Playing Rock Band in your favorite bar after a few pints is not quite tournament quality play…or passion.
Before I knew it, COSI had canceled the Rock Band tournament and I got wind that they were switching the whole thing around to be a Guitar Hero tournament and that they were abandoning their over 18 plan. They instead moved the tournament to a normal Friday night and extended the age group to 13 and up. Frankly, this move didn’t surprise me and after going to the tournament, lowering the age was a smart move. But how they organized the tournament wasn’t so smart.
What started off as a tournament about bands quickly became a tournament about solos. Despite the new Guitar Hero game being a band game (drums, singing, etc.) they kept it as a head-to-head competition, guitar only. They basically took the band out of a band game. By doing that they quickly eliminated the performance factor of the tournament, the one thing I was looking forward to.
Surprisingly enough, the reorganized tournament still had judges. What they were judging was anyone’s guess. I think the intent was to have them judge performance or “style,” but after a few matches it was clear that few of the kids were interested in showing off anything more than their ability to hit each note perfectly. By using a straight scoring model, there was no incentive to do anything more than just hit the buttons. Some kids came ready though…one had a Slash wig and hat, and one kid even used a bath towel as a cape (bonus points for capes).
The tournament was slated to run from 6p to 10p but with 50 entrants into the bracket, the people at COSI quickly realized that 10p was a very lofty goal. The tournament didn’t end until a little after midnight and was left with few people watching shy of those still in the tournament (and us, of course). From about 6p to 9p the general admission crowd was hanging out and seeing what the tournament was all about, but after that there were no casual spectators left. Of course, I don’t blame them, the tournament itself wasn’t very exciting.
We spent the night heckling the judges and cheering the kids that went a little above and beyond simply playing the song. And much to my surprise there were a few over 18 entries into the tournament. Even if I had known it wasn’t going to be 100% teens, I still wouldn’t have entered. I was more interested in the band idea not the solo hero concept.
So following in the steps of Family Guy, here’s a nice compliment sandwich:
- They held the city’s first Guitar Hero tournament; huge win for having the balls
- They had a great venue at COSI and a nice setup.
- A tournament system that didn’t provide any motivation for entertainment (unless you’re us)
- Not enough for spectators to do. How about some game stations for folks?
- Took way too long. There were too many entrants and poor bracket planning.
- Everyone that entered seemed to have a good time
- The COSI folks sounded very happy with turn out, so they’ll probably do it again
- Free Red Bull
Let’s hope COSI tries this again but revisits how they structure the tournament, and let’s hope they try a Rock Band tourney instead. Jen even suggested something along the lines of a traditional Battle of the Bands concept, where a band/group shows up, plays a song (or set), and then the crowd and judges vote for the winner. Completely drop scoring entirely. Personally, I don’t think you can eliminate scoring but you can make it less significant by putting more value in the performance.
And then again, maybe I’m just not meant for tournament gaming. I’m more interested in entertainment – and entertaining – than technical apptitude, especially when the game involves a band. Once you have a band and a stage it’s more about the people than the music, especially in a fake band.