As a member of the Harmonix Community Team I get to act as a goodwill representative for the company. That covers being a HMX Ambassador on the forums, in support email, and occasionally in person. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to give a group of awesome kids a tour around the HMX offices.
They were visiting from an organization called Zumix, based out of East Boston. Zumix is a group that provides kids with an opportunity to have access to musical instruments, tutors, and a group of like minded musically inclined kids in a positive community environment. They cover everything from guitar lessons, reading piano music, to writing hip hop lyrics. They've got a great focus on not only teaching kids how to use music as a positive force in their lives, but they also learn a bit about the possibilities of pursuing a job in a music related field.
Enter Harmonix. I got to give them the grand tour around the offices (minus all of the super secret stuff: the super collider, chocolate waterfall, Rigopolcopter) and introduce them to some of the people here. They were pretty into it, and got way into it when they found out we had an in house rehearsal studio.
We did some job talk, and talked about career opportunities in the field of video game development, and finally got around to setting up Rock Band for these nine kids to sit down and play. And they rocked. They may have rocked harder than any group of first timers I have ever had the pleasure of playing with.
Of the nine, five kids had never played Rock Band and the rest of them had only tried the guitar and even then they confessed that they had only tried playing on easy. So we set up and they totally let loose. Two songs in one kid was playing guitar on expert, guys who had been quiet all tour long were fighting over the mic, and everyone really started to loosen up. One girl who had been terrified of playing the drums at Zumix finally got up the courage to hop behind a Rock Band kit and it turned out she really enjoyed it. They traded off instruments without hesitation or complaint after every track and were eager to try something new. And I have never seen a group of guys more excited about singing for Rock Band before. One dude totally lost his mind singing Metallica's "Ride the Lightning," and the other guy cleared two songs at 100% singing on Medium.
I chalk it up to their musical background, but it was still super impressive watching them waltz through songs that have humbled older rockers and more experienced gamers. They've already got the rhythm, timing, and ear for the music so it was really cool being able to sit them down with these relatively foreign instrument peripherals and see them take to it like ducks to water.
Stuff like that, more than getting a chance to have a blast rocking out in the comfort of my own home, or seeing DLC sales figures,is really what makes me happy to be involved with Rock Band and HMX as a whole. I hope those kids had half as much fun as I did on that tour, and I hope to see some of them make waves that turn the music gaming industry on its ear sometime within the next ten years.