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Old 11-7-2012, 09:12 AM   #1
moches
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Default the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

First of all, this may belong in Critical Thinking, but I wasn't quite sure. It seemed more like something that everybody here could discuss, so I'm putting it here for the time being, but if it's in the wrong place, I would have no issue if a mod just moved it over.

Backstory: in the summer, our Composition class was assigned to write a dialogue about a philosophical question ala Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Naturally, I decided to write about Stepmania because that's how I roll. I had also been thinking about the game recently, mostly because of how much my family disapproved of it.

I shared the essay with a couple of people, and all had some very interesting things to say, so I was wondering what you guys would all think.

Be warned, it is corny because it's written from my perspective, but oh well.

Quote:
(Loud tapping is heard from the inner room. Family members shake their heads in disgust.)

Miriam: I canít hear myself think over this racket!

Mom: Heís been playing that for an HOUR now! Iíve had enough. MOSES!

Moses: (takes off earphones) Iím sorry, did you just call me?

Mom: What is that ridiculous arrow game youíve been playing? I thought I told you in elementary school to stop playing it, and now itís been eight years. You have nothing to gain from tapping keys to anime music, and the sound is driving us crazy. Just stop!

Moses: Nothing to gain? You do realize Iíve been playing it for a reason, right? Stepmaniaónot ďarrow gameĒóis basically an instrument to me at this point.

Mom: An instrument? Youíre high right now, arenít you? Itís a game, Moses, not an experience! How can a rhythm game possibly be anything close to an instrument?

Moses: Well, Iíll answer that, but I still see this as something that needs to be nurtured, not dismissed. Here, Iíll sit down and explain it right now.

You guys have always said that Stepmania is a waste of my timeó

Miriam, Mom: IT IS!

Moses: Maybe I should just skip the introduction. The thing is, you guys see it as a waste of my time, but I still invested time into it. The reason I kept playing is that I wanted to learn how to play well, and there are skills you need: you have to develop hand-eye coordination, learn to read predefined charts of notes that reflect the music (these are referred to as ďstepchartsĒ), and time everything as the chart demands. Sounds similar to learning to play an instrument to me.

Miriam: But you donít see people playing the computer keyboard in concert halls.

Moses: True, but just because it doesnít produce sound doesnít mean that it doesnít require skills. And furthermore, simulation is getting much better with time: djMAX, for example, plays songs differently depending on how you time them, so that perfect timing plays the best possible version of a song while sloppy playing will make it a mess. Whether youíre playing an instrument or a game, thereís a clear difference in outcome dependent on skill. You can play an instrument well. You can play a game well. And in both situations, playing well means playing music well.

Mom: But that doesnít apply to all games! Stepmania is just four keys. Itís not reflective of any one instrument in general.

Moses: Fair enough; maybe I shouldnít have generalized. But if thatís the case, then letís look at both types of rhythm games.

Some rhythm games are designed to recreate the experience of playing a specific instrument, like Guitar Hero. Even if theyíre not perfect representations of their respective instruments, they do share the fundamental characteristics of an instrument: they utilize learned skills and the application of those skills produces sound which may or may not be good. If your concern is about accurate simulation, than these games are clearly adequate.

Other rhythm games, like Stepmania, donít reflect any one instrument but instead center on an abstract format (Stepmania only has four columns on which notes scroll up). In these games, the similarities to an instrument are limited strictly to skill, but the process of playing can still accurately reflect a song; in fact, it can even be more effective in doing so than instrument-simulation based rhythm games. This has to do with the second characteristic rhythm games share with instruments: self-expression.

Miriam: Self-expression? Okay, Iíve seen you playing Stepmania before, and unless you think headbanging qualifies as self-expression, I donít see what your point is.

Moses: Miriam, you play the clarinet, right?

Miriam: Duh.

Moses: And youíve performed solos, havenít you?

Miriam: Youíve seen them, right?

Moses: And youíve also written music in those music theory classes you took in high school?

Miriam: Yes. This isnít about me, though. What does this have to do with your game obsession?

Moses: I have done all of those things. Iíve played solos before. Iíve even written what rhythm gamers would consider to be their sheet music by writing my own stepcharts. The thing is, a song in a rhythm game is nothing without a good stepchart that emphasizes specific aspects of the song that should be emphasized.

Miriam: But how do you play solos? These charts are still made for people to hit as accurately as possible for the highest score. Thereís no self-expression in that.

Moses: But who says there canít be? Do the great clarinet players, the great musicians, stick to every note in their sheet music? Or do they interpret it as a scholar interprets a text, finding themselves with the chart only serving as a guideline? Anyone can splash colors onto a canvas and call it a painting; it takes an artist to infuse the colors with a sense of meaning. The same goes for stepcharting: do you want a crash course on how our philosophy works as sheet music?

Mom: Enlighten me.

Moses: Iím only well-versed in Stepmania, but even that one game has a myriad of subtext beneath each note. Consider, first of all, the freeze note, a special sustained note that must be held in order to score. The traditional use was to use them to emphasize melody, but over time, a novel use of the freeze developed.

You see, nowadays, many freezes arenít even long enough to hold. These notes are called minifreezes. You can use them to emphasize percussion, background vocals or synths, and even to highlight a melody. Speaking of melody, one of the theories that developed over the years is designed to highlight just that: we refer to it as pitch relevancy, which is the idea that lower pitches go on the left and higher pitches go on the right.

In sheet music, we emphasize notes with special marks that indicate dynamics or textures (such as staccato or legato). Stepmania doesnít have marks for forte or piano, but it does have a variety of other techniques that can be used to achieve similar effects. Layering notes to be less dense in softer parts and more dense in louder parts uses intensity as a dynamic mark. Mines, which are notes that explode if you hit them and must therefore be avoided, can be placed directly after particularly strong notes to have a staccato effect. And one theory that has developed very recently is color theory, which is used by offsetting the BPM (beats per minute) of the file so that all the notes of one instrument or voice shift to a particular color. This can either be used in lieu of minifreezes to bring out specific melodies or motifs or as a sort of antiphonal technique, where the file may shift between two different colors.

Note that these theories only carry subtext because somebody had the idea in the first place: like music theory has gradually become more complex with time, Stepmania has also adapted to become a better fit for the music.

Mom: Thatís all interesting, but how is that self-expression? Arenít you just trying to cram everything you can into the chart?

Moses: Not necessarily! The idea behind stepcharting theory is not capturing everything but capturing whatís most important so that playing the file perfectly is going to yield the ideal version of the song on which it was modeled. Where self-expression comes in is the subjectivity of what that ideal is: you can see dozens of YouTube covers of one song and each has its own voice, its own rhythms. The same applies to stepcharting. Therefore, the art is almost metacontextual: it is not only sheet music for a game but also a betrayal of oneís own interpretation of the music itself.

Miriam: Öhmm. Just one question: how do players express themselves through the music? Arenít they just going for the highest score possible, what the stepartist desires and sees as ďidealĒ?

Moses: Youíre confusing want with need: the player doesnít need to conform to the standards. Both the artist and player interact with the song, the artist by stepping it, and the player by putting his own spin on the chart. You can see this in games like DanceDanceRevolution, where some players prefer to play freestyle, only using the stepchart as a sort of guide to what in the music to follow while including their own dance moves in the blank space. Music isnít a one-way path but a constant back-and-forth, and everybody who plays rhythm games has a unique take on it.

Mom: It just seems so unproductive, though. You really have to do this through a game?

Moses: Well, why canít I? Not everybody is a musical prodigy. Not everybody weeps at the sound of a violin. Sometimes we find beauty in the smaller things, like a free-source rhythm game based on DDR that is actively played by maybe a hundred thousand people out of seven billion. It has nothing to do with whatís traditionally acceptable or even ďefficientĒ: I find it to be exhilarating. You guys just need to open your minds to what the people around you see.

Mom: Youíre doing this out of a love for music, is that what youíre saying?

Moses: Absolutely.

Mom: Then why donít you join a musical community? A game, while useful in a limited context, simply doesnít seem like a replacement for real experiences.

Moses: But I do have real experiences! Mom, communities can form around anything: our hobbies, our passions, even our inability to poop (if you Google that, people will probably tell you that you have butt cancer). Iíd even argue that Stepmania, along with certain other rhythm games, is a better fit for a musical aficionado than a traditional musical community precisely because of its limited application.

Think of it this way. A song is never just one instrument. Itís drums, bass, guitar, clarinet, violin, digeridoo. You can play one instrument, and you will receive recognition and develop an appreciation for the music you experience. But isnít it only for that instrument? Do you develop the same love for the drums? The violin? The digeridoo? What if all you play is classical music, and you despise every other genre of music as low-brow pop fluff?

Stepmania is different because it forces you to interact not with any one instrument but with the song as a whole. The various techniques found in stepcharts condense radically different styles of music into a couple of easily recognizable and universal forms. Jazz and rock may attract completely different crowds, but in Stepmania their charts may look eerily similar. By limiting the application of any individual instrument, it expands its focus to everything, so that players can develop a love for MUSIC as a whole.

And of course, that love for music can be built upon with a community. Differences in opinion incite discussion, and criticism will arise, as it will in any creation process. People on both sides of the gaming spectrumóthe creators and the playersólearn how to best express themselves, and because the creation of stepcharts is in this way a collaborative process, the sharing of diverse ideas and opinions on music occurs naturally. By beginning with a universally relatable expression of music in the form of a game, Stepmania has actually built one of the most engaging musical communities online.

Miriam: Youíre getting all of this from a game? I just donít see how you see it as such a deep experience. Itís just a game.

Moses: Maybe this refusal to acknowledge the good games can do comes from the struggle each of us faces to make a unique streak on the face of humanity. We want to be independent, useful, creative, original, and above all, smart. But in my eight years of playing this game, what Iíve learned is that you never set yourself on that path alone but begin where everybody else starts. And in that way, Stepmania has been useful to me: it has taught me to value the thoughts of others. It has taught me to see new uses for old things. And most importantly, it has taught me the importance of the people around you. You can learn a lot more from them than they can from you.

So maybe I could have used that time to practice the drums, or become a clarinet master, or conquer Finland. But I didnítóand though I doubt many will admit it, people like me who stayed to play a silly game for eight years ended up learning plenty in that time. Maybe we just need to get past our fear of being useless or stupid. Maybe thereís a lot to learn from the games we play if we stop seeing them as things to be scored on and start seeing them like we would any other activity: as subjective, personal experiences that can hold meaning for everybody.

Miriam: Okay, okay, okay. I donít know why youíre inflicting this on us. I donít care if youíre useless and stupidÖjust please be useless and stupid somewhere else. I have an essay to write and your tapping is driving me nuts.

Moses: Heh. Funny you should mention that.

Mom: Room, Moses.


Is there really validity to the comparison between Stepmania and real musicians/real music? What do you guys think?
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Old 11-7-2012, 09:44 AM   #2
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

This really is a good topic for critical thinking. It should be moved.

I actually took the time to read all of that. I think that games will continue to be games: a player trying to score as many points in the game as possible. But, in a game such as StepMania, FFR, and other rhythm games, they need music producers and people to step the music. There is no game more unique than rhythm games. I feel like it is in it's own special category, aside from FPS's and MMO's. The ability for someone to create a game such as COD is straightforward. You even get paid for making a game such as COD. But what do step artists/"musicians" get for making their music/step chart? Nothing. They just do it because they want to and to contribute to the community. I know that my explanation might have a lot of holes, but feel free to input your opinion. I'm open.
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im usually the "nice guy" around these parts.. but this is bad, and you should feel bad. i would rather dip my balls in honey and hover them over a red ant hill than to ever hear such butchered crap.
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Old 11-7-2012, 09:47 AM   #3
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

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Originally Posted by moches View Post
Is there really validity to the comparison between Stepmania and real musicians/real music? What do you guys think?
Well, it sure as hell opens your music palette to not just be one genre of your surrounding malls and whatever is sold in stores locally. Stepmania has charts for tens of thousands of charts for many different genre songs. That kind of diversity gives motivation, ideas and inspiration to make music with related melodies and the sort. It really helps when a music producer/instrument player can't think of something new, so they just hop onto Stepmania and listen/play a bunch of songs and see if there's motivation after that. Other than that, I'd find it just a great way to hear a lot of different songs you wouldn't normally hear.

Not sure if that's quite an answer of relevancy, but that's what I perceived that question as.

Other than ideas and motivation for real music makers, Stepmania has no benefits in the long-run. It's just a game to other people.
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Old 11-7-2012, 09:48 AM   #4
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

I read that, and all I can say is, I feel sorry for you.

It irritates me when people hear "game" and automatically assume "unproductive". In my experiences, people who claim such things are ironically doing even more "unproductive" activities than playing a game. For example, watching a mindless real-life comedy on the television, making sure to keep up with the extended commercials that they've seen countless times. Some of these people even have the commercials memorized and can recite them at any given moment. How can they claim that playing a game is inefficient?

Games, activities associated with fun. The more complicated the game, the more you can improve on certain skills and the better you learn about the various aspects related to a game. A game can be a wonderful method for skill development and education, if used correctly.

Many people associate games with basic games that have no goals, and can be easily played through without the slightest attempt for improvement. Even then, you can learn these skills I've been talking about, but at a more basic level. Of course staying with these games will eventually plateau your abilities to improve, but we are not talking about playing simple games, are we?

Next up, stimulation of the brain. The brain needs activity driven by dynamic thought in order to properly develop. Unlike watching the television, letting the projected images play out everything for you, games force you to think. For example, my grandmother fought off memory deterioration by doing puzzles and word searches. No one can expect her to be able to play StepMania, but those puzzles can be just as stimulating.

Finally, enjoyment plays a major role, just like any other form of entertainment. Games can help you moderate your mentality, keeping you in a more desired state of mind. You can get much more out of playing a game than most people realize. A rhythm game like StepMania can introduce you to new styles of music. A role playing game can place you in a new world to explore, giving you a player-driven story.

The skills mentioned previously carry over. Let's focus on StepMania in general. Typing is a major part of our world in these modern times. Playing StepMania will, of course, help you improve on that. However, it does much more than that. As you said, timing and hand-eye coordination are also improved.

Have you ever considered conditioning as a reason?

Doing a physical activity for long periods of time conditions the body to be able to do it more efficiently. You train your nerves to react faster in certain parts of the body. You build much needed muscle. The striking of the bone attracts calcium to the effected area, making it more dense. In short, your hands are much more conditioned for activity than the average person's.

Speaking strictly about physical conditioning, activities such as playing the piano would come to you much faster than it would for the normal person. How is that for being "unproductive"? Of course, playing the piano isn't the only activity that conditioning your hands could help you with. Another fine example would be martial arts. You can think of as many more as you like, but I believe you catch my drift.

Now, why do I feel sorry for you?

Well, I apologize for talking down on your family, but they are expressing their ignorance to great lengths. They will never understand the benefits of playing a game if they continue to correlate video games with people who failed in life. I doubt they'll ever take the time to try and understand your arguments, and it sounds like they instead, listened to you mindlessly as if you were a television.

I have to start getting ready for classes, so I don't have time to proof read any of this. I hope this helps out with your fight to justify playing StepMania.

Good luck!
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Old 11-7-2012, 10:15 AM   #5
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

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Originally Posted by Riotpolice View Post
There is no game more unique than rhythm games. I feel like it is in it's own special category, aside from FPS's and MMO's. The ability for someone to create a game such as COD is straightforward. You even get paid for making a game such as COD. But what do step artists/"musicians" get for making their music/step chart? Nothing. They just do it because they want to and to contribute to the community. I know that my explanation might have a lot of holes, but feel free to input your opinion. I'm open.
That is a very good point: rhythm games seem, almost more than any other genre, motivated by self-expression.

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Originally Posted by .Sapphire View Post
Well, it sure as hell opens your music palette to not just be one genre of your surrounding malls and whatever is sold in stores locally. Stepmania has charts for tens of thousands of charts for many different genre songs. That kind of diversity gives motivation, ideas and inspiration to make music with related melodies and the sort. It really helps when a music producer/instrument player can't think of something new, so they just hop onto Stepmania and listen/play a bunch of songs and see if there's motivation after that. Other than that, I'd find it just a great way to hear a lot of different songs you wouldn't normally hear.

Not sure if that's quite an answer of relevancy, but that's what I perceived that question as.

Other than ideas and motivation for real music makers, Stepmania has no benefits in the long-run. It's just a game to other people.
Music producer TJ DeJong in the house!

I've been learning about Structuralism lately, and my thoughts keep returning to Stepmania. What I think merits reference is how similarly structured stepfiles of vastly different songs can be: you're in effect synthesizing an entire spectrum of music to a few recognizable functions. That definitely helps to broaden your perspective beyond just what genres you enjoy.

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very long post
Hehe, no need to feel sorry for me. My family is awesome about some things, ignorant about other things.

All of this is really, really good.
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Old 11-7-2012, 10:30 AM   #6
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

Really interesting overall. Never looked at Stepmania in that perspective (just thought that Stepmania is a portal to more music to me before this), but it definitely gave me something to think about rhythm games in general.

Brings to the question though:
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Originally Posted by moches View Post
Is there really validity to the comparison between Stepmania and real musicians/real music? What do you guys think?
Yes, I feel that the comparison between Stepmania and real musicians/real music is valid.

True, rhythm games like Stepmania have the objective of scoring as many points in the game as possible, but even then, it requires accuracy to do. It's similar to trying to perform piano pieces with the score, you still require a sense of rhythm to make sure that the notes/keys you hit are as accurate as possible.

It's not like just some random game where you have to mash every key as fast as possible, because that's similar to just smashing every key on the piano, it ends up as a cluster**** and it isn't really all that pleasant to hear. There's speed, but speed requires accuracy as well, otherwise you wouldn't do well on songs you play on Stepmania, similar like you can play the electric guitar at ~250 BPM or so, but if it sounds messy, it wouldn't sound good.

Basically from a player's perspective it's comparable to how proficient you are at playing an instrument, imo.

From a stepper's perspective (though admittedly I don't step much), like you said, the same song might be portrayed differently by different people with different stepping styles such as Gundam-Dude's IOSYS vocal theory and Kommisar's use of rolls, just like different covers/remixes (with different instruments or programs even) of the same song. Players and simfile artists give their thoughts and opinions about a chart you make, just like how listeners and musicians give their thoughts and opinions about a song you make, and you improve as time goes by. Whether it's a chart or a song.

Simfile charts and songs are pretty similar in general, you have to create it, and chances are it will not be exactly the same as what anyone else has made. It's YOUR work, and it's definitely a form of interpretation/expression to others.

That's really how I see the relation between Stepmania and music in general, I guess.

On another note this is probably the first time I actually wrote this much on the forums lmao.

EDIT: As for your family bearing the noise of rhythm gaming, there really isn't much of a choice honestly. They wouldn't experience the same thing as you did, they wouldn't understand why you enjoy playing such a "mindless" game. I've gotten better at playing instruments and understanding music better through rhythm gaming as well, but others might see it as you just getting better as you practice more and more with instruments. If you try to tell them that you got better at music proficiency due to Stepmania and you explain how it did, they might not believe you anyway, and it's just an excuse to play more Stepmania. All in a matter of understanding to me, but in the end, they'll probably see it as just some mindless game that destroys keyboards.

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Old 11-7-2012, 10:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

Read most of it (heading to class soon) and there's definitely a wall between ignorance and understanding rhythm gaming.

My parents were against FFR/SM before but then I showed the correlation between playing and reading music compared to StepMania/FFR (i.e. reading rhythms, weird patterns, finger strength/flexibility, etc.) and just said "whatever." It is very true that I've gotten better at playing instruments and understanding music better through rhythm gaming.

It just seems no matter how you compare games to "more achievable" things in life that people won't understand or try to understand. As dragon said, people will write off games automatically in an ill manner and refuse to settle even if they try.
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Old 11-7-2012, 10:35 AM   #8
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

You basically nailed it all.

Though to be fair, I find more enjoyment in making the notecharts than comparing scores with people at this point. The whole "artistic" side of it is what brings me most pleasure. And you're absolutely right; no two people would step a file the same, much like painting on a canvas (although it's a little more likely to be similar).
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Old 11-7-2012, 10:50 AM   #9
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

I play the piano, but I don't make money off of it. Although I practice every day, I am still unproductive.
If I was aspiring to make money off of it, then yes: it would be productive. But who is actually aspiring to making money off of playing rhythm games?

Living needs money
Productivity causes money
Parents want you to be able to support yourself

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend most of my day watching this anime
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So Sexy Robotnik (SKG_Scintill) {.0001/10} [--]
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. RHYTHMS PR LAYERING
. ZOMG I HAD TO QUIT OUT TERRIBLE
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Old 11-7-2012, 11:09 AM   #10
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

Really enjoying reading all of this. Some very interesting points being brought up.

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I play the piano, but I don't make money off of it. Although I practice every day, I am still unproductive.
If I was aspiring to make money off of it, then yes: it would be productive. But who is actually aspiring to making money off of playing rhythm games?

Living needs money
Productivity causes money
Parents want you to be able to support yourself

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend most of my day watching this anime
True but unfortunate. I don't see money as being the end of everything, but ~it makes the world go round~, and let's be honest, a crapload of our decisions are based not on any actual desire for self-fulfillment or enlightenment but on how much it'll help us earn dat $$$ in the future.

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You basically nailed it all.

Though to be fair, I find more enjoyment in making the notecharts than comparing scores with people at this point. The whole "artistic" side of it is what brings me most pleasure. And you're absolutely right; no two people would step a file the same, much like painting on a canvas (although it's a little more likely to be similar).
Same here, haha. I just don't care about scoring at this point.

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Read most of it (heading to class soon) and there's definitely a wall between ignorance and understanding rhythm gaming.

My parents were against FFR/SM before but then I showed the correlation between playing and reading music compared to StepMania/FFR (i.e. reading rhythms, weird patterns, finger strength/flexibility, etc.) and just said "whatever." It is very true that I've gotten better at playing instruments and understanding music better through rhythm gaming.

It just seems no matter how you compare games to "more achievable" things in life that people won't understand or try to understand. As dragon said, people will write off games automatically in an ill manner and refuse to settle even if they try.
It's mostly just the (unwarranted) assumption that games have no intrinsic value other than entertainment, even when other forms of entertainment (film/literature/music) are dissected over and over again. Then again, they are a relatively new art form, so maybe this issue will resolve itself with history.

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long post
Good post.
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Old 11-7-2012, 01:09 PM   #11
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

stepmania has made me able to appreciate nearly any piece of music, period. i'm certainly one of the least "music snobby" people i've ever known. this has extended to nearly every aspect of my life. anything that can be interpreted, can be interpreted to be beautiful (or the opposite). i definitely still have my own preferences, but i deeply respect and appreciate other viewpoints.

it's pretty similar with video games, in general. are they a waste of time or not? it could be interpreted either way.
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Old 11-7-2012, 01:15 PM   #12
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

It's quite possible to make money off of playing certain games, Stepmania isn't one of them
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Old 11-7-2012, 01:21 PM   #13
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

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It's quite possible to make money off of playing certain games, Stepmania isn't one of them
Are you trying to say that those who developed rhythm games, inspired by ones such as StepMania, made no money?

The best rhythm games are made by developers who have a good understanding about how rhythm games should behave. You've probably played some bad rhythm games in the past. If not, try Rhythm Zone and tell me if you honestly believe the developers knew what they were doing.

A skill that you can't make money off of, that has to be a joke.
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Old 11-7-2012, 01:45 PM   #14
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

something i want to add

many of the people i know who are gamers frown upon rhythm games

furthermore, many people i know who play rhythm games frown upon stepmania

it really does seem like a niche hobby

weeaboos probably play more stepmania than your typical gamer
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Old 11-7-2012, 03:18 PM   #15
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

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Living needs money
Productivity causes money
Parents want you to be able to support yourself
Remember that human beings are not satisfied merely by surviving. There are plenty of things that we as a species do that serve rather questionable levels of productivity or necessity. These are things that are known as interests or hobbies.

People relating productivity directly to monetary gain will find that essentially no human being is always being "productive" in their lives. From this prospective, essentially anything you do outside of working (or striving to obtain work of a higher pay incentive) is absolutely useless to you in terms of survival. With this mindset, TV, hanging out with friends, reading books, exercising, listening to music, or even looking for a spouse and having children are unproductive. In fact, the last two are actually counterproductive to you, because of the significant amount of money you would lose from trying to achieve those goals.

We don't necessarily have to consider something productive to be something that gives us money do we? Isn't the emotional satisfaction we obtain from taking part in a hobby a variant of production? If productivity is a ratio of production output to what is required to produce it (inputs), then wouldn't the output of emotional gratification in regards to the physical input actually be, in a sense, physiologically productive?

It's not just about surviving, it's also about enjoying the life you are living. If you get emotional gratification from playing StepMania, then it is beyond acceptable to use this practice to make your life more enjoyable. We are not robots, we cannot be expected to be financially productive every hour of our entire lives. Actually in a way, without any sort of emotional gratification in a person's life, it really begs the question as to whether or not they even enjoyed living in the first place. Sure they survived, but did they really live their lives the way they wanted to in the end?

Feel free to elaborate on this or ask questions.
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Old 11-7-2012, 03:46 PM   #16
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

My opinion in brief is that if you want to learn to be musical, the obvious best way is to structuredly practice that instrument and its theory.

BUT

We are human beings, evolved with the psychology and physiology of yesteryear not today's relatively struggle free environment Some of us have always wanted to devote themselves to and practice X - we call this 'talent', but the connotation of being naturally good at it is wrong - a better connotation is 'naturally inclined to practice'. Certainly anyone can become good at any trade, but the less natural practice inclination they have for it the more activation energy is required. So, it is very useful to have trade substitutes or practice substitutes, that grow a similar skillset and are more motivating for you to practice at.

While I'd be a better musician right now if in high school I picked up playing an instrument and composing instead of Stepmania, that was never going to happen. I gave up on piano as soon as the second hand came in and never learned chords. I couldn't grok making midis, there wasn't any instrument that inspired me to get good, drums demanded too much co-ordination between all the limbs that I couldn't play anything that interested me.

I don't know what originally appealed to me about Stepmania. I do remember how I got into it was a very new friend showing up on AIM with arch0wl's quasar and reality videos - I was immediately hooked by the idea. Maybe it was the idea of how impressively visually and audially overloading it was, maybe it was the idea that anyone could get good at it, I don't know, but it was my big 'thing' to do for many years. In the process I've been exposed to thousands of thousands of songs, stepped hundreds and hundreds analytically and critically, gained hand eye co-ordination, finger-finger co-ordination and rudimentary hand-hand co-ordination. I think honestly the most useful skill it's given me for what I want to get into is such a large body of mentally stored music that I've thought hard about that I can think about tunes and build them via inspiration rather than needing to go to a book and construct them - when I first opened Famitracker I figured out some rudimentary melodies and rhythms without needing to study for hours first. If all of this had not lowered the activation energy of composition enough for that, plus the low activation energy required to compose in Famitracker, I would still be an unmusical bum.
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Old 11-7-2012, 04:34 PM   #17
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

The last two posts make me question that I am a human being
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Originally Posted by bluguerilla
So Sexy Robotnik (SKG_Scintill) {.0001/10} [--]
___
. RHYTHMS PR LAYERING
. ZOMG I HAD TO QUIT OUT TERRIBLE
.
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Old 11-7-2012, 04:39 PM   #18
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

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The last two posts make me question that I am a human being
Can you elaborate?
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Old 11-7-2012, 05:29 PM   #19
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

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You basically nailed it all.

Though to be fair, I find more enjoyment in making the notecharts than comparing scores with people at this point. The whole "artistic" side of it is what brings me most pleasure. And you're absolutely right; no two people would step a file the same, much like painting on a canvas (although it's a little more likely to be similar).
100% agreed

great thread, moches. I read 1/2 of your essay and 1/3 of the long responses. this topic should make (and has already made) for an excellent discussion.
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Old 11-7-2012, 05:49 PM   #20
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Default Re: the philosophy of Stepmania/rhythm games

Wow, you made a very well-developed and structured essay, good work. I never really realized how much Stepmania/rhythm games correlated to music theory and everything else you mentioned... it really makes you think.

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Is there really validity to the comparison between Stepmania and real musicians/real music? What do you guys think?
Absolutely. I've been playing FFR and Stepmania on and off for about five years, and it has certainly helped to develop my skills musically. I started playing the drums a few years ago, and rhythm games such as FFR/SM helped me realize how you have to learn to flow with the music, and find ways to incorporate your own personal touch into it, not unlike the artists' canvas like you referenced.

This is especially relevant with percussion instruments, because things like speed, rhythm and tempo, and different accenting and drum/cymbal usage (for the kit) are essential in order to make a dynamic and creative piece of music.
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