Rockband Game Mechanic Fail

I have incredibly fond memories of playing Rockband with my family. But there is one mechanic in this game that always perplexed me — “failing” a song. Why did this exist? Most people play Rockband with people they already know, and they probably pick songs they already enjoy. Why would anyone enjoy having their song get cut-off?

As I rack my brain for why the game designers might have wanted to include this mechanic, where the song aborts if one person in the band is performing poorly for too long, the only thing I can come up with is maybe requiring all band members to perform well would add one more layer of challenge, and perhaps fellowship, because the “band” would have to team up to overcome a certain song.

But speaking from personal experience, failing a song never led to fellowship. I think the Rockband designers misunderstood the main types of fun they were delivering when adding this mechanic. The main types of fun in Rockband are sense-pleasure derived from the music, fellowship by playing with other people, and abnegation by simply kicking back and playing along to some music you enjoy. If a player is looking for that sense of challenge, they can set their difficulty to “expert” and try to hit 100% of the notes. Failing a song because the difficulty level was set too high never led to “fiero” for me, but seeing a 99% instead of 100% certainly did. Since each player can choose their own difficulty, it’s not like any songs were the “big boss” that we had to team-up to overcome, even in the “Career Mode”. Failure mode never led to fellowship or enjoyable challenge, at least not in my experience. And if failing to deliver fun isn’t bad enough, I think it actively detracted from the sense-pleasure, fellowship, and abnegation that made Rockband so enjoyable in the first place!

My family always turned on the “no-fail mode” setting, because we were bad. In fact, it is why we bought Rockband 2 instead of Guitar Hero World Tour. We were playing the game to experience fellowship and sense-pleasure, not challenge. Actually, getting a perfect score on a song was challenge. Overall, “failure mode” failed to deliver the right kind of challenge.

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