Andrew Lloyd Webber To Ride The Starlight Express Toward Interactivity

Lucas Jensen | January 15, 2009 4:45 am
It’s been a bad week in the video game world, what with the announcement that sales of Guitar Hero and Rock Band may have peaked, the dissolution of the industry’s leading magazine, Electronic Gaming Monthly (it had 600,000 subscribers!), and the layoffs at EGM‘s sister web portal 1up.com (which ain’t even loading for me today). From Penny Arcade comes news that’s somehow even worse: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is getting into this gaming fad he’s been hearing so much about.

Much like Tycho over at Penny Arcade, there is only one ALW musical I can get behind.

When we lived in the hallowed Apartment 26, we would watch Jesus Christ Superstar with surprising frequency, and it was an experience about which I have nothing ironic to say. As a transposition of the Gospels into modern voice – though it is perhaps less “modern” now – it’s Goddamned riveting, particularly as a lapsed believer. It gave me a sympathy for the figure of Christ that I never had as an actual disciple.

(Plus, that song that plays when Jesus is being whipped is pretty ripping.)

Anyway, my first thought about this was that it would probably just like Lips or some karaoke thing, and it doesn’t seem that I’m not that far off:

The first Lloyd-Webber titles will let players sing along as characters in the composer’s shows and could involve elements of “audition,” just like in his BBC shows I’d Do Anything and How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? and last year’s Lloyd-Webber-themed episode of American Idol.

Um, that sounds terrible. My idea of gaming hell is singing along to anything from Cats while watching a bunch of virtual cat-suited actors hiss in an alleyway. And who wants to audition for a musical in a video game?

But hang on a sec.

Tycho, like me, is fatigued by the live performance format of most rhythm games. Why does everything have to be a “show?” It’s pretty rock-centric, and why not have at least have music videos going along with the playing? Tycho asks, why not a narrative experience?

I’m hungry for a game that features music and rhythm elements layered over a custom, narrative experience. PaRappa and UmJammer Lammy executed on this a billion years ago, when it was genuinely weird to do so, but now that rhythm brands are billion dollar global franchises the creative potential has been reduced to a pinhole. These games may have “Band Campaigns,” but they’re rendered at the emotional resolution of a Lite-Brite. I’m ready to see what’s next.

Haha, Lite Brite! I agree wholeheartedly with this. The declining sales of Rock Band and Guitar Hero suggest market saturation. Perhaps the next iteration of those games could add a little verisimilitude to campaign mode with “loading up the van” minigames, or unskippable, lengthy “waiting for sound check” cutscenes? I’m kinda joking here, but why not have studio sessions where playing the song well saves the band money? How about pantomiming along with the song in a music video shoot? Think Oregon Trail meets Rock Band! It could be great!

A Boy Can Dream [Penny Arcade]Lloyd-Webber Tries Gaming; Singalong With Evita, Phantom [paidContent.org]