Both I and Mikko Kaipainen, Ovelin’s co-founder, are guitar dropouts. We started Ovelin because we wanted to develop a game that makes it fun to learn to play the guitar. Our first title, WildChords, was created with that goal in mind. The game has been out for more than half a year already, winning many awards, prizes and praises from all over the world. So WildChords clearly succeeded! But did it manage to teach me, the CEO of Ovelin, to play the guitar?
I freely admit that, before Ovelin, I was a pretty hopeless case as a guitarist. I could play maybe three chords, and it took me ages to change from one grip to another. It boils down to practicing more, of course, but I just didn’t have the motivation to do the exercises. When we played the first versions ofWildChords at the office, that changed. I remember the excitement well – suddenly playing the guitar was so very entertaining that I got addicted to our own game! I think that’s what made us realize that our theory – “combining guitar exercises with a game will make practice fun” – really works. I didn’t stop there, either – by now I can change from one chord to another much faster, and I have finished all but one extremely hard exercise. I’m clearly a better player than I ever was before, so, in that regard,WildChords really kept its promise!
However enjoyable WildChords is, we knew from the start that it will only get you so far. With the tiny budget we had, and the limited capabilities of the audio technology we used back then, we had to trim the exercises down to two different types: chord progressions and single note exercises. In other words,WildChords never had practices for anything advanced, like rhythmic patterns or arpeggios. It’s a bit like learning lots of words in a foreign language, but never understand how to actually form a sentence. However, the most important realization was that learning is a lot of fun, and it’s extremely rewarding noticing your skills improve. While I cannot yet claim that yes, I know how to play the guitar, I can definitively say I enjoy playing, and all the guitarists I’ve talked to during the past year say that that happy feeling right there, that’s more important than anything else.
Obviously the story does not end here. Finding the joy in playing the guitar made me even more convinced that what we are doing at Ovelin is worth it. We’re making a more comprehensive game next with a totally new approach: the game will not just teach you some chords, but will also show you how to master all the techniques you need to play real songs. For the past few weeks we’ve been playtesting the new game, and we’re growing more and more enthused with every tweak and touch we make. And it’s exciting! It really is. Even though I’m just a beginner, playing the songs sounds and feels great. Some of my co-workers – way better guitarists than me, mind you – have already finished the most difficult exercise of the game, and it sounds AWESOME. It’s extremely rewarding to work on a project that makes it easier for people to pick up this wonderful hobby, and find out that learning to play a guitar really is fun.
I know it sounds dubious when you’re the CEO of the company making the game you’re bragging about, but I really am looking forward to what the final version has to offer. It’s going to be a blast, and I’m really excited to see how my skills will improve. Maybe in a few months I can honestly say that yes, our own game taught me to play a guitar.
-Christoph Thür, CEO, Ovelin