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Tuesday, February 06, 2007  

Guitar Apprentice?

Because M. Small is constantly talking -- including self-narrating just about every waking moment of his life -- it's easy to forget that he's still technically learning how. Sometimes he treats his mom and me like his own personal Berlitz™ tapes, repeating back random things we say on the off chance that it might be a commonly-used phrase that he's going to have to be familiar with. It's a solid theory, especially given the frequency with which expressions like "stop that," "hold still," and "put your bum in the seat and eat your dinner" get tossed around here. Especially when he's around. Even a phrase he's not familiar with might come up again, even if he can't remember ever hearing it before.

Except on Saturday morning, I didn't know how to explain that it's pretty unlikely that anyone in the house will have to use the question, "How'd that bacon get under the end table?" too many times.

And besides, I might be wrong.

* * *

The weekend before last, Febrifuge (also known here as ZV) brought over his PS2 and his new game, Guitar Hero II. I would say that I wish I owned this game myself, but if I did, soon I would own nothing else. That's because I would play it and play it and play it until my boss fired me and Wing and Sars fired me and my agent fired me and people I don't even work for any more would call me and fire me, and my son would fire me and my wife would fire me and kick me out of the house, and then I wouldn't have anyplace to plug my game in. That would be sad.

Because this game rules. It has about as much to do with being an actual rock star as, say, recapping a season of Rock Star does, and yet it rocks. In case you haven't seen the ads, it comes with its own game controller which is shaped like a half-size guitar. Except instead of frets it's got five colored buttons along the neck and instead of strings it's got this little flippy thing that you "strum" to "play" "notes." At a GameWorks in Seattle a few years ago I played an arcade version of the game, which I haven't seen since except for a brief cameo in Lost in Translation (the scene where Scarlett Johanssen wanders through the arcade past some kid playing it, attended by his girlfriend who's so epically bored that she might as well be watching Lost in Translation). So I was familiar with the concept.

But it you're not, lemme 'splain. Basically the bottom half of the screen shows a gridlike representation of the fretboard coming at you, with little colored bubbles indicating which of the five colored buttons you press when the bubble in question reaches the bottom of the screen. Basically the hundreds of notes and chords you can play on a real guitar are condensed into five buttons (four, if you're in easy or medium mode). And thus you're able to engage in all manner of guitar heroics without all that pesky practice or sheet music that can be such a drag. The top half of the screen shows "live concert footage," which is actually a computer-animated character of your choosing playing a computer-animated guitar of your choosing. This can make from some odd juxtapositions, as when Febrifuge's glam-rock androgyne was playing an Allman Brothers solo.

There are like forty songs in a character's "career," which counterintuitively begins with arena-rock crowd-pleasers at a high-school battle of the bands and progresses to more technically challenging (read: totally obscure) art-metal being played to packed arenas. And then after every song you get a little review and a bit of cash that you can use to buy more computer-animated guitars.

As a sometime musician, this should probably offend me. There's no room for artistry; the game expects you to play the song exactly the way it tells you to play it, and if you miss a note you get this painful (but faithfully recorded) off-key scratching noise while some know-it-all in the fake crowd moans theatrically. Screw up too many times, and the song's over. You lose. But there's also something liberating about not having to wonder whether to play a G-flat minor or an F-sharp diminished, because all you have to play is "green." It's a little weird if a song comes up that you already know; I had so much trouble overcoming my muscle memory on Matthew Sweet's "Girlfriend" that I nearly blew it. "Sweet Child O' Mine," however, was a triumph. I could never say the same on an actual guitar.

Taking turns, Febrifuge and I ended up burning an entire afternoon and evening this way. Trash was out of town, and her mom was watching M. Small most of the time, although he did come down for a visit at one point. He's a big fan of toy guitars, after all. When I was driving home the next day, listening to the radio and thinking of the guitar parts in terms of multicolored buttons instead of actual chords, I knew this game had gotten under my occasionally-callused fingertips.

I told Trash about it afterward, and she claims that the game doesn't sound any fun at all. I'm hoping Febrifuge will come back some time when she's home so she can try it. Better yet, maybe he can score another controller so we can use the game's duet function. She might even like it so much she'll buy it for us. And then we can get fired together.

posted by M. Giant 7:06 PM 4 comments

4 Comments:

Clearly Trash doesn't understand what good clean fun is. I understand how addicting guitar heroes is, but for my money I'll buy DDR (the stupid dancing to electronic music on a pad "game"). I've seen two well endowed ladies challenge each other in a head to head best of three songs match. For the last round, I asked them to kick up the level (faster speed = more bouncing). I totally got away with it by feigning ignorance of the game - but I knew what I was doing. The payoff was incalculable, I assure you.

By Anonymous Chao, at February 7, 2007 at 6:52 AM  

Trash needs to play it. The game is crack. Any good song you hear on the radio, you're like, "Damn, they should GH that." Think of the versions! Classic Rock! 80's Punk! Power Ballads! Country! I seriously love that game so much that if I owned it myself, I'd flunk out of school. I call it "Guitar Heroin."

By Blogger notanillusion, at February 7, 2007 at 8:15 AM  

Is this a good time to mention that Teslagrl went and got the first game, plus her own controller?

Moo hoo, ha ha ha, etc.

I shall enjoy watching Trash's cool and unimpressed demeanor crumble like a tabloid marriage. Maybe this weekend will work?

By Blogger Febrifuge, at February 7, 2007 at 4:32 PM  

Trash has NO IDEA what she is missing. Can't you trick her into playing? Because this game is crack, serious crack.

By Anonymous Michelle, at February 7, 2007 at 4:54 PM  

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