Ethnography of Rock Band Bar Night
August 10, 2009 9:56 PM   Subscribe

Ethnography of Rock Band Bar Night. The Rock Band video game (and the similar Guitar Hero) are more than video games where players try to earn points and some are exploring the deeper meaning of such games.

In this ethnographic study of a Rock Band bar night, Kiri Miller, discovers that Rock Band bar night is, surprisingly, a friendly, accessible musical scene with a tight-knit group of friends at its core—more like an open Irish session than a karaoke night, and with fewer barriers to participation than either of those other typical bar events.

Miller researches GH and RB and is currently collecting data from players, if you're interested in participating.

She keeps a blog on her research as well. Read her (interesting) thoughts on being a researcher on this topic. She also provides some audio interviews with players.

She argues that "[a]nyone who has played Guitar Hero or Rock Band for more than five minutes will tell you that it requires a deeper level of musical engagement than listening to an iPod—intellectually, emotionally, physically, and often socially" and "the games have substantially changed the way they listen to popular music when they’re not playing." She also asks if GH/RB playing "authentic"? It certainly is a performance.
posted by k8t (16 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds more like market research and advertising than academic research. Especially your collecting data link. Also... Value-reconstituted? I guess I'm not a real academic. I'll just wait for Dissertation Hero to come out for XBox.
posted by sanko at 10:28 PM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

My business partner and I have this lingering "client"; a late-50s individual-car-dealer who has always wasted our time with his grandiose ideas and very little follow-through.

He called up my partner, eager to talk shop about his idea and about how he was lining up his investment capital.

"I have tickets to a Battle of the Bands at Hard Rock Cafe tonight. You should come with and we'll talk shop!"

"Um, okay, sure, see you there around 7pm."

The next day, my partner came into my office:

"So last night was a bit of a bust."

"Oh yeah? More of the same nonsense?"

"Well, that, sure. ...and it was a Battle of the Rockbands."

" the video game?"

"Yeah. Tom saw them start up and began asking me 'what the hell is this?' It was awkward."

"Oh man. I'm so glad he called *you*."
posted by disillusioned at 11:41 PM on August 10, 2009

Heh, this is totally awesome. Reminds me of the uber-awesome "Karaoke Nights - an ethnographic rhapsody", well worth checking out if you're into that kind of thing.
posted by yoHighness at 4:17 AM on August 11, 2009

Dissertation Hero is okay, but the difficulty curve is a little uneven. After a long grind of leveling-up and a bunch of repetitive research tasks, it's quite a shock to sit down in front of a dissertation committee composed of Slash, Tom Morello and Satan.
posted by box at 5:06 AM on August 11, 2009 [11 favorites]

Maybe it's because I learnt piano as a kid, but that sort of vaguely accurate five fingered tapping-out-the-melody thing you do in these games is exactly what I do with my hands when I'm just sitting somewhere listening to a melody I really like.
posted by lucidium at 5:10 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

See, I totally would have gone to grad school if I could study people drinking while playing video games. And her last project was on GTA? Wow. Snark aside, I do love that there is at least some serious thought going into gaming, at Brown, no less.

This may also have been the first survey I've ever seen have a check box for intergender/trans/other for "Gender."
posted by This Guy at 5:46 AM on August 11, 2009

Neat! It's always a bit weird to see a friend's work mentioned on MeFi. Kiri's work has been great and really interesting these past few years. She published an interesting and thoroughly-researched article on identity-play through music selection in Grand Theft Auto III called "Jacking the Dial: Radio, Race and Place in Grand Theft Auto" (2007. Ethnomusicology 51/3: 402-438)—sorry, no direct link to a pdf. Also, last year, she wrote a twin article on GTA in the Journal of American Folklore 121/481, which I haven't yet had a chance to read.

Anyway, the research she does is definitely at the academic level, and the work she's done on performance authenticity and digital media (GH, RB) are definitely timely within music scholarship. Keep in mind that the blog post linked at the top of the FPP is just a blog post.
posted by LMGM at 5:50 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Awesome! I work at Harmonix but hadn't encountered her work yet. I'm passing it around to folks here; I'm sure many will be interested.
posted by dfan at 7:00 AM on August 11, 2009

Box: I think you're really missing the point of DH, which is the online mode. Playing the AI can't compare to the thrill of pulling out a Continental Double-Problematizer in Lacanovison on some unsuspecting racist ABD-griefer from U of C's Committee on Social Thought.

I mean, it's no Diss Diss Revolution, but it has its moments.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:36 AM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Bah, just advanced Simon games. I'll stick with Sim Grad Student, thankyouverymuch.

you sit in front of a computer and do nothing except maybe a wait-staff minigame. There are only two levels and the grind is ...considerable
posted by The Whelk at 7:49 AM on August 11, 2009

This may also have been the first survey I've ever seen have a check box for intergender/trans/other for "Gender."

It is pretty standard nowadays...
posted by k8t at 8:16 AM on August 11, 2009

Oh hot damn does this look interesting.

Dissertation Hero is okay, but the difficulty curve is a little uneven.

Plus a lot of the courses are available considerably cheaper for the old UndergradStation if you're willing to do without the extra "achievement" stuff.
posted by cortex at 8:48 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sanko, I'm a researcher too and know what a pain it is to collect data. Just spreading some data collection karmic love. I don't know this researcher at all. "Academic" researchers collect data too, ya know.
posted by k8t at 9:00 AM on August 11, 2009

This may also have been the first survey I've ever seen have a check box for intergender/trans/other for "Gender."

It is pretty standard nowadays...

Seriously? What kind of surveys are you taking? Am I totally missing out on some new era of gender-inclusiveness?

sorry for the derail, but I find this fascinating
posted by This Guy at 9:33 AM on August 11, 2009

I dunno, but it seems pretty common in academic research.
posted by k8t at 8:21 PM on August 11, 2009

Ya, seriouslah, "other" has become pretty standard in academic research, espcially in anthropology-influenced fields, where there's some sensitivity to the fact that male-female binaries don't always get the whole picture.
posted by LMGM at 1:58 AM on August 12, 2009

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