The New York Times magazine has one of the most thoughtful and insightful pieces of game reporting I've seen in a long time, about Beetles: Rock Band. What was striking for me was the articulation by both the makers of the game, and by band members and their loved ones, of the deep appeal of performing/embodying the music making, and the great potential for turning music back into an active, performative, joyful part of everyday peoples' lives, as it was before the great era of recording. To quote the article directly:
"'When you need to move your body in synchrony with the music in specific ways, it connects you with the music in a deeper way than when you are just listening to it,' Rigopulos went on to say. Paul McCartney said much the same thing when I spoke with him in June. 'That’s what you want,' he told me. 'You want people to get engaged.' McCartney sees the game as 'a natural, modern extension” of what the Beatles did in the ’60s, only now people can feel as if “they possess or own the song, that they’ve been in it.' “
Or as Yoko Ono said in the piece: “It’s like dancing,” she said, or even “a very strong active meditation.”
This reminded me a column Ian Bogost wrote for Gamasutra recently that dealt with the use of gesture and movement in games, in particular his comment that 'gestures, be they transitive or intransitive, direct or indirect, can also alter an actor's own thoughts or feelings about the world or himself. These sensations can be complex, and they can evolve.'
Interestingly, the core emotional feel of the game is a departure from the typical frustration/fiero cycle that Nicole Lazzaro describes in her research--as Harmonix's Alex Rigopulos says in the article: “It is subtle, and it is sweet, and it is very embracing. This game isn’t about winning. That’s generally not done in big mainstream games.”
The reporter notes that the game isn't so much about competition, but is quite cooperative. Perhaps the musical performance paradigm is helping to drive a profound shift even from the AAA mass market side in the kinds of emotional experiences that games aim to provide to players. As Jenova Chen said in his Develop 2009 talk, "Sometimes hard fun is your enemy," said Chen, "but it’s too easy to try and make a hard, fun game, as it’s almost all we know."