Over the years, video games have grown to become strong promotional tools for musical artists of all kinds. We see the occasional console or mobile game with a soundtrack consisting of real-world music rather than original compositions. We’ve witnessed online slot machines putting classic rock icons back on the map. And maybe most interesting of all, there are several recent sports games that have gone out of their way to promote emerging artists — the most notable example being the NBA 2K franchise, which makes a point of adding up-and-comers to its soundtracks periodically.
Amidst all of this activity though, country music is largely left out — or at least isn’t given a specific spotlight. This is a shame, particularly when we consider the possibility of elevating emerging artists. Within the world of country, genre enthusiasts are well aware of rising figures like Lori Rayne, Parker Graye, and so many others. For those who aren’t specifically fans of country music though, names like these (not to mention the songs behind them) are still obscure.
So what more could we see in gaming to specifically promote new and emerging country artists? We won’t make any predictions, but there are some intriguing possibilities.
Soundtracks for the Right App & Console Games
We mentioned that some mobile and console games employ real-world music, and it tends to be fairly neutral, background stuff (such as radio play in Grand Theft Auto games). But it would also be interesting to see a given game with a vaguely country aesthetic give players the option of listening to a soundtrack with real country music from emerging artists. A game like The Trail comes to mind as a potential example. This is a relaxing frontier exploration game, by no means relating to country music culture but nonetheless an appropriate match for the genre. Playing the game with quiet, real country music in the background would suit plenty of players just fine, and it would allow for injections of new material from new artists.
The Voice Slingo
This is a concept with some precedent. We noted above that online slots have helped to promote some classic rock legends, and there’s actually a slot game based on The Voice as well. However, it’s a fairly limited game and does nothing to showcase actual artists. What might be more effective is a slingo version of the same concept. This is a type of online game that mixes slots and bingo, such that results on a slot reel help to fill out a bingo card. And here too there’s precedent for a talent competition show as the basis for a theme, with Foxy Games already hosting a Britain’s Got Talent title in its Slingo selection. A similar game revolving around The Voice could use the latest contestants from the show — so many of whom are budding country artists — to fill out cards. It would be an excellent showcase.
Country Rock Band VR
One of the best existing examples of country music in video game comes in the form of a sort of expansion pack for Rock Band, the game challenges players to play fake instruments in rhythm with real songs. The “Country Track Pack” basically infused an existing Rock Band game with a slate of country songs. What we’d like to see now though is a full version of Rock Band just for country fans — and, just for fun, adapted to virtual reality. Rhythm games like this are already migrating into VR, and in doing so will allow fans to enjoy the simulated feeling of playing actual concerts on stage. A country version of the game that continually added new music would be wonderful for fans, as well as for the artists involved.
Lifestyle Mobile Games
A number of years ago now there was some hype around the introduction of a Taylor Swift video game. CNET described the game basically as a natural evolution of modern superstardom — a follow-up to a Kardashian game and a way for a star to let her fans follow her in yet another way. Games like these (Katy Perry produced one as well) didn’t prove to have much clout, but that doesn’t mean a lifestyle mobile game for a country artist couldn’t work out. Even an emerging artist would only need good music, a creative concept, and a strong game development team to turn out an experience that could gain popularity among fans. It might be an ambitious idea, but at the same time it’s one that feels likely to happen eventually in some shape or form.
Any of these ideas could help to boost country artists, and we hope to see some of them put into action in the gaming world soon!