Hip-Hop Week | Hip-Hop vs. Game Design: How Game Designers Incorporate the Freestyle Elements of Hip-Hop into Hip-Hop Themed Video Games

Hip-Hop Week concludes with this post on In Third Person! For the grand finale, I look at the point where the elements of hip-hop freestyle collide with game structure. Has any game ever found the right balance? Thank you for joining me on this adventure!

The element of improvisation is a foundational block of hip-hop music and culture. In the beginning, the scene started with DJs, rappers, and breakdancers making things up as they went. Though hip-hop music and culture has been mainstream for quite some time, the ethos of what freestyle means still permeates.

Translating that freeform nature of hip-hop has been a challenge in the world of video games. By virtue of being a game, the “game” part needs some sort of quantifiable benchmark to define success. This flies in the face of the freeform nature of the culture.

Let’s look at a few ways in which developers have tried to provide structure for the purposes of making a fun game, while trying to maintain the freestyle nature of the activity its emulating.

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Last Night, a DJ Saved My Life

The other day, I received my DJ Hero setup in the mail. Not having bought refurbished products before, and being a bit concerned over the condition of the stuff they sent me, I was very quick and thorough with my inspection. The game was opened, yet the disc and manual looked to be in mint condition. As for the turntable and mixer, it looked just fine as well. Considering the fact that I can’t even get DJ Hero used for anywhere close to what I paid for this refurbished version, it was a steal.

Come On DJ, Spin That Wheel

As a fan of music games, hip-hop music and DJ-ing, DJ Hero caught my eye the moment it was announced. At first, I had my reservations in regards to how it would control. Unlike my previous forays into video game musical instruments, I do have a bit of background in real DJ-ing, which skewed my perception of how it would work. While I am no DJ Shadow or DJ Q-Bert, I do have the ability to blend tracks on CD turntables and do some basic scratching. I was kind of bummed that the controller would only feature one turntable and I wasn’t so sure I was cool with having buttons on the turntable. It wasn’t until I got my hands on it a few weeks ago that I changed my stance.