At Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, one of our guests brought an unusual party game with them. It’s a video game for a PlayStation 2 called Taiko Drum Master (fortunately our guest also brought the PlayStation 2 console with them). I have to say that the game was immensely entertaining to watch and could be very challenging to play.
It’s a very simple concept; you have to tap a given rhythm along with a piece of music on a plastic taiko drum (Japanese style drum). The music ranges from pop tunes (ABC, I’m a Believer, Toxic, etc.), well known classical standards (Hungarian Rhapsody #5, Mozart Symphony 25, Beethoven’s 5th, etc.), to some far out techno Japanese music.
You have to learn how to play the taiko drum five different ways but the learning curve is pretty fast. You earn points by accurately tapping the given rhythms and at the end of each piece the game shows your score as a percentage. The game is decidedly Japanese, with a very distinctive, campy cartoon quality to it but that doesn’t distract from the game play.
Since everyone attending the party was a musician (but no percussionists) the game was infinitely amusing on a number of different levels. But what I kept thinking about was how great that a third of the music selections were standard classical tunes. It was also good to see that the only goal of the game was to learn how to focus on and internalize the rhythmic aspect of the music while simultaneously listening to the tune.
It goes to show that there is a huge potential for connecting classical music to a new audience through video games. I would also love to see a study sometime about how a child would processes listening to live classical music if their only previous exposure consisted of something like this game.
I’ve written about video game music before but that was a completely different medium than this game; Taiko Drum Master introduces classical music while simultaneously serving as an educational tool. There’s a great deal of potential out there for video games, hopefully classical music will be able to catch on to some of it.