Music-related games are not a new phenomenon; in fact, the relationship goes back nearly 200 years. McDowall’s Musical Game first appeared in 1836 and posed questions about the written form of music. A quiz about scales and musical structure might not sound too exciting to the modern gamer, but it was a popular parlour game in England at the time.
Later, popular music artists began to get in on the act. In 1940, legendary jazz musician and bandleader, Benny Goodman lent his name to the curiously titled Benny Goodman Swings into a Game of Musical Information. The name didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but the game by Toy Creations included a Xylophone on which players could play musical notes written on cards and try to guess the tune. But with just 40 musical questions, the game had limited long-term appeal.
By the 1950s, Bing Crosby and Elvis also had their own branded board games, and they were followed in the 60s by the heavyweight pop bands such as the Monkees and the Beatles.
Unsurprisingly, the first big heavy rock band to cash in on the gaming scene were KISS. The 70s rock legends were always on the ball when it came to merchandise and treated fans to the KISS on Tour board game in 1977 and followed it up with a range of jigsaws, playing cards, yo-yos, transfer sets and View-Masters. Nothing was sacred to KISS marketing team.
Rock fans were starved of any decent board games during the 80s, and 1990s’ Rock Fever did little to buck that trend. However, the success of Trivial Pursuit boosted the popularity of traditional board games, and a host of music general knowledge games appeared during the 90s.
Metal fans finally got the game they deserved in 1999 with the release of Metal Mental Breakdown branded as the “world’s first heavy metal trivia board game.” The game covered all genres of metal including 70s British rock, American glam rock and Scandinavian black metal.
Since then, rock and metal fans have been treated to titles such as Rockband Manager, Cave Evil, Rock Science, Thrash’n Roll and Metal Mania. All great titles in their own right but none bearing the branding of a major band with the exception of Queen Monopoly!
To find games released under licence from artists we have to look to the world of slot machines. There, gamers can take advantage of the many free spins offers to play titles from artists such as KISS, Guns n’ Roses, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top, Megadeth and Motorhead. Games such as Plumbo and Rock Star also feature rock music as the central theme.
Before video slot machines entered our lives, old-school rockers who were not impressed by board game could get their measure of heavy metal gaming via pinball machines. Many of rock biggest names including the Who, KISS, Rolling Stones, Ted Nugent, AC/DC, Aerosmith and Iron Maiden have all featured in pinball halls across the world.
Today, the relationship between rock and gaming remains strong. Who knows where it will lead us next.