Reporter's Notebook: The Greatest Guitar Hero Player of Them All

Categories: Pop Culture

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By Kevin Hoffman

In this week's news story, I went to Rochester to pay a visit to Chris Chike, the 16-year-old Guitar Hero phenom that recently set a new Guinness record for highest score on the game's hardest song. Because of the constraints of the narrative, there was a lot of material that I didn't get a chance to use. Included among the cutting-room-floor scraps is an interview with RedOctane founder Charles Huang about the series, tips from Chike on how to master the trickiest parts of songs, and YouTube clips of Chike in action. All this and more you'll find after the jump.

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Still with me? Good. Let's start with the interview with Charles Huang. Charles founded RedOctane with his brother Kai in 1999. Originally a producer of dance pads for Dance Dance Revolution, RedOctane struck gold in November 2005 when it teamed up with developer Harmonix to create Guitar Hero. As I write in my news story:

To date, the series has sold over 14 million copies and earned more than $1 billion. "Guitar Hero was the fastest video game to $1 billion in sales—we just beat out Pokemon," says Huang.


More from my interview with Huang:

How did you become involved in Guitar Hero?
It was a concept that we had worked on a total of about three years. In our business we had seen very successful music games in Asia but nothing that really caught on in the US. And one of our thoughts was there should be a way to make a really fun music game for the US market. And we thought guitar was the perfect instrument because rock and roll would be the music that would make it work in the US.

Were you impressed when you watched Chilte play "Through the Fire and Flames" live?
The guy that did it, it took him nearly a month to note chart that one. That was designed to be the song to test the skills of the highest caliber players. I don’t think somebody had in mind that somebody could get 97 percent of the notes right, which is what Chris hit. That’s over 3,500 notes on that expert song. You have to have a lot of accuracy and a lot of stamina. I play expert level. I’ve scored about 100,000 on that song.

Do you think Guitar Hero is good or bad for music education?
We’ve had guitar instructors tell that they have seen a lot more interest in kids wanting to play guitars because they play Guitar Hero. Sometimes the first thing they’ll do is sit them in front of Guitar Hero. … There’s so many people that play it and so many kids get exposed to great guitar music. One of the keys for people who want to play guitar music: they have to love guitar music.

You can find Chris Chike's YouTube page here, Some of my favorites are:

This demonstration of his fingering technique:

And this demonstration of "Through the Fire and Flames":

An excerpt from my interview with Chike:

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How did you end up going to the Guiness Book of World Records tournament?
It wasn't even a tournament, I was posting my videos on YouTube and I guess they got ahold of it, and they said, "We think you have the highest score in the world so let's make it official, so we'll fly you out to new york and have witnesses and make it official." So that's what happened.

At what point did you realize you might be the world's best Guitar Hero player?
Once I look in the internet and being like "no one's gotten that high of a score so I'm pretty sure" and on X-box Live rankings once you get a score it automatically submits it to the X-box Live rankings, and I was No. 1 for that song (Through the Fire and Flames).

Now are there any rivals, people who are No. 1 in a different song?
Yeah, there's actually a couple people who are better than me at other songs, and I respect that. I'm not the best at every song, just this song, and this song just so happens to be able to get the highest score on. Some songs max out at 500,000, this one maxes out at 900,000-something, and that's what got me a little more famous because it goes based soley on high score.

How did you start building your skills to be at the level where you can get a 98% on this song?
It was a lot of practice. It all started with that (X-box Live) achievement they had, get 750,000 on any song, and this was the only song possible at the time to get that number, and so I said I want to be the first one to be get this achievement, and I was the first one, so I was like, well, I seem to be excelling at this song, so I might as well keep practicing.

How would you practice?
Just keep playing it, and there's practice mode where you focus on the parts you can't get, and keep practicing that certain part. And then move on to the next section. I still haven't mastered all the sections.

How many hours a day would you do this?
The days when I'd go for the record it would be too many, like five, like OCDing on that song, but if I'm just playing for fun it's like an hour or two.

At what point did you feel like you were qualified for the high score? When did you start keeping track of scores?
I actually started keeping track of my scores early on, I noticed I was getting good at the game after like a month, so I started keeping track of my scores and stuff, just comparing to everyone else.

When you're practicing, you're just doing it by yourself?
Yeah, it's just me, mastering a certain song. During school, it's after school; on the weekends, maybe after I wake up after breakfast or something. On weekends, I'll probably go out with friends, instead of just sitting here and playing Guitar Hero, cuz that's just depressing.

What was your mother's reaction when you were playing four hours a day?
First of all she was like, "Eat or something." On a weekend, she won't bother me about it, but on a weeknight, if I stay up real late, she'll be like, "Go to bed, you need sleep." But on the weekend it's never a problem.

Chris Chike recently won $2,000 in the national Guitar Hero III tournament sponsored by Play N Trade. But first he competed for the Minnesota state title. Check out the point differential in the rubber match! The difference-maker: Chike hit Star Power one note earlier.

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Check out this promo for Guitar Hero: World Tour for Nintendo DS:


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