5.1 Rhythm Action Games

In so-called rhythm action games, such as FreQuency (2001), Amplitude (2003), or Rhythm Tengoku (Nintendo 2006), rhythm is to be seen as a central factor and thus responsible for the specific aesthetics of the game experience. These games center around the fact that sound can be used as feedback to actions in simulated environments, involving the players into the rhythm of the system. The tremendously popular games Guitar Hero (Harmonix 2005) and Rockband (Harmonix 2007), which allow players to slip into the role of rock musicians, require rhythmic and time-critical reactions to what challenges the game presents them with. In the highly original game Vib Ribbon (NaNaOn-Sha 2000), a stick figure is moved over a line, which transforms itself based on music chosen by the players in the form of a CD, resulting in various obstacles to be overcome. Here too, the musical rhythm becomes the starting point for the interaction. However, rhythmical structures resulting from the audiovisual feedback coupling between human and machine during the game process have a broader-ranging significance in digital games. In these situations, the computer always remains superior to the human ability to react. In fact, the principle of most rhythm action games is precisely to adapt to a given rhythm, which becomes increasingly complex and faster from level to level, by pressing buttons as exactly as possible. The awarding of points, which makes these kinds of games competitive, thus depends on the players’ time-critical accommodation to the respective rhythm of the game system. The game Parappa the Rapper (NaNaOn-Sha 1996), which is distinguished by its idiosyncratic aesthetics located between 2D and 3D, is also constructed in this fashion: the player has to operate the buttons of the controller in the right rhythm to make the main figure rap. A game that is based on this same principle, but which allows the players a freer choice in relation to the tempo of the interaction, is the Japanese audio game REZ (2001). Accordingly, REZ goes beyond typical rhythm action games, offering an aesthetically independent, inter-modal experience, which opens up a somewhat greater scope of action.