Not including Guitar Hero, but some modern offshoots allow use of real instrumentation to play along. Rocksmith and Yousician are the two most notable of these, and bill themselves as ‘the fastest way to learn guitar’. The premise is simply to utilise a real guitar with the video game addictiveness of Guitar Hero’s early work, essentially so the learnt skills have some basis in value outside of the game itself. The idea is a nice one (I will admit to never having used either of these personally) but I have a couple of sticking points. Firstly, there is no-one to individually critique you. One of the best things about a human teacher is their interaction and ability to refine incredibly small facets of what you do to make your technique really good. Unfortunately, your console cannot do that in the same way, and from what I’ve seen, this can leave learners with poor technique that looks uncomfortable and could lead onto RSI’s if not corrected properly.
Secondly, the gameplay screen has to feel like a regular video game, utilising colours to specify strings or notes needed for the part. Now while this works in the context of the game, as soon as the player is left without their coloured conveyor belt of notes, they will almost surely be dumbfounded with no lasting knowledge of what to play. Better focus on teaching notes and memorising the riffs would be better in the long run.
Finally, the gameplay I’ve seen on these seems very generous. This is not to say we need to discourage aspiring players, but to praise something that is incorrect is just as unfair as players grow up and try to move forward – no one is going to give you a ‘Great Job!’ when you play out of key in the real world.
For me, these games are a love-hate thing. I totally understand where the market for them exists and if used alongside tuition from an experienced, respected guitar tutor, I can definitely see their place as a big engaging force. The issue comes when they are relied upon for total tuition, as there simply isn’t enough pressure put on the player from a console to improve techniques.