I shouldn't really be all that emotional about the news that Rock Band will be ceasing weekly DLC come April 2nd - I haven't played any game in the series for almost 6 months now and I haven't had a Rock Band party for over a year – yet here I am deeply saddened by the news. Despite not playing the game for months or having a proper session since 2011, I was still there every Friday morning at 10 AM EST to see what next week's DLC would bring. I stuck with them since day one, I even dealt with the crummy PlayStation 3 release dates and prices, and the fact that Xbox 360 was clearly Harmonix's preferred console. Right up to the bitter end, I was a fake plastic rocker.
But April 2nd 2013 is the day the music died. That's right, Don McLean's American Pie is the final track to be released for the platform; a fitting end to a series and genre that helped an entire generation appreciate the musical stylings of bands such as Rush, The Who, Queen, and The Beatles.
I started out with Harmonix sometime in mid-2005, between the releases of Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II. I didn't like DDR, so I thought I would dislike Guitar Hero as well. Luckily I was wrong. I quickly took to mastering that fake plastic guitar like it made me a star, just like everyone else between 2005 and 2009. I was there day one to pick up Guitar Hero II, and just like that I was well and truly hooked. I also picked up Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, but I don't think anyone feels that that was a particularly great game - an expansion in an era and on a system that didn't facilitate expansions. It wasn't until the great war of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock versus Rock Band that things really heated up.
I knew nothing of the shift in development from Harmonix to Neversoft in regards to Guitar Hero III upon its release. All I knew was that Guitar Hero III had an outstanding soundtrack but somehow didn't feel quite right, and Rock Band was (in my naive eyes) just trying to capitalize on Guitar Hero's success. This period of my life was harsh because, for a few months, I felt I'd outlived the craze and had absolutely no interest in instrument-based rhythm games any longer. That was until I went to my friend's first Rock Band party on New Year's Eve 2007.
Even though I knew little about the soundtrack of the original Rock Band, I was instantly hooked. The controllers felt a little weird due to the fact that I was used to the thicker, more kid-friendly Guitar Hero guitars, but I had a blast. Everything just felt so much better than Guitar Hero III, which was sloppy in comparison. I had soon saved up enough money to get a PlayStation 3, Rock Band, and Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. That's right, Rock Band was my first PlayStation 3 game, an honor no game can steal.
For a year, I had Rock Band parties almost every night. Like a fool, I dedicated so much of my income to buying DLC to expand my collection even though the Canadian PSN prices were a dollar more than they were on the Xbox 360 or in the United States. I eventually caught up to every piece of released DLC, and I managed to maintain that pace well beyond the release of Rock Band 2. I may have gotten sick of the Rock Band tracks, but now, as I look back, there were some real classics I will never truly tire of. Nothing in the library compares to stuff like Foreplay/Long Time, Won't Get Fooled Again, or the guitar wankery known as Green Grass and High Tides.
Rock Band 2 came out, and those with PlayStation 3 Rock Band sets got it a month late compared to Xbox 360 owners. I was okay with that though - we got Megadeth and Rush albums to hold us over until the new game released. Megadeth and Rush are two of my all-time favorite bands now, and neither was even on my radar pre-Rock Band. Rock Band, and Harmonix on the whole, have helped shape my tastes in music and my appreciation for instrument tracks far beyond what I'd ever expect from a videogame, and for that, it will always have a place in my heart.
Time went by, 2009 rolled around, and I started falling behind. There were a few songs I didn't want, so I stopped getting every DLC song. Between the release of Rock Band 2 in 2008 and Rock Band 3 in 2010, my buying habits dwindled from buying every song, to buying most songs, to buying about half of them, to only buying the stuff that I already loved, which was a decent amount, but not as much as it once was. I could still occasionally find people online who had DLC, but none of my 'real' friends wanted to play. Through 2007-2009, I talked about Rock Band every chance I got. I was a frontrunner in the Rock Band and Guitar Hero wars, and I was writing DLC articles and reviews every week. I was about as into it as you could possibly get.
When Rock Band 3 released, my interest had mostly dwindled to nothing. I still loved the game and was more than willing to play; if anyone ever even whispered the words “Rock Band” in hushed tones, I'd perk my ears up. “I have that game, want to play?” I'd ask, far too enthusiastically, only to be shot down, as it was usually followed up by some hateful rant about how I should get a real guitar. I always hated this argument. It was always frustrating to see the mentality that 'games should imitate reality' used against us fake plastic rockers, but as soon as some major shooting or violence was linked to the medium as a whole, people were quick to remind everyone that there's no link between games and violence. There's no direct link short of a broken controller or, at worst, a hole in the wall due to a flung controller, but saying that we fake plastic rockers should play a real guitar is as inane an argument as saying 'you Call of Duty players need to put down the controller and pick up a real gun.' To this day it baffles me that people could so valiantly assault one genre for this, but completely forget that there are dozens of game genres out there like racing and sports that perfectly emulate real life actions and activities that don't get the same treatment.
But I digress.
Rock Band has been pumping out DLC since November 20th 2007. That's 281 weeks straight, over five years, always bringing us new content. All of that comes to an end on April 2nd 2013, and with it a part of my gaming life. In an odd way I'm kind of relieved. I stopped purchasing the DLC because I couldn't keep up with the constant releases; now I can rest easy knowing I can pick and choose songs as I wish without having to worry about falling behind.
I've been playing games since I was 3 years old, maybe younger, and there isn't a game out there that I've invested more time and money in. I've collected well over 1,400 tracks throughout my tenure as a fake plastic musician, I've got three full sets of instruments, a pro keyboard, cymbals for my drum set, and I've even considered buying a larger hard drive for my PlayStation 3 just so that I could keep all of my DLC in one place without having to delete and sift through my collection. I bought The AC/DC, Green Day, and The Beatles side games, as well as the LEGO, Blitz and PSP versions. Needless to say, I've sunk a lot of my time and money into Rock Band.
While I no longer play Rock Band, I still care about it not only because of the huge sense of nostalgia it invokes for me, but also because it a game (and franchise) that helped shape my tastes in music. I've met many friends through Rock Band, I've discovered many bands thanks to Rock Band, I've spent a lot of time and money on Rock Band, and it saddens me to see that, despite a hell of a run that many at one point thought would never end, Rock Band will soon be a thing of the past. Today I went to the official forums to check out the final week's DLC, and I choked up a bit knowing that this Friday is the last Friday I will ever enjoy this weekly tradition of waking up and having something to look forward to. Next week, I know I'll do the same thing and get saddened when I remember there's no more DLC. Old Habits die hard.
I'd love for there to be an encore, perhaps a Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd game released in the future as one final dying declaration of love for the medium, but given the genre's dwindling interest and the general public's migration to dance games (and Harmonix's own Dance Central) as their music game of choice, I doubt I'll ever see another Rock Band game or DLC pack.
But hey, every great band needs to retire at one point! The party can't go on forever, and now I have over 5 years of my life I can look back on and smile about. It's been a hell of a party, Harmonix, may you be successful in all your future endeavours.