Friday, June 29, 2007

Rock On, You Crazy Hero

Damn you Joe. Damn you to hell.

For all of you who are NOT Joe, let me explain: I have this problem you see. My head is like a fertile garden; once a seed is planted it takes root and grows at an extraordinary pace until I satisfy it. Knowing this, and knowing how susceptible I am to suggestion, especially when it comes to gaming, my friend Joe maliciously and with intent to disrupt my life planted a seed that would spread and take over my mind like a parasitic weed. This seed: Guitar Hero 2.

I don't think even Joe expected what happened next.

I generally don't like console games, and never really got into them. I didn't have Guitar Hero 2. I didn't have a Playstation 2. And I certainly didn't have not one but two Guitar controllers. But a week after being shown a video on YouTube of some kid rocking out to Rush's "YYZ" on Guitar Hero 2 Click here to watch , and a brief visit to eBay, I now do. And let me tell you, it was the best $200 I've spent in years! This game completely and unequivocally rocks. For those who live shielded from the video game world, a brief description may be in order. It comes with a guitar-shaped controller with five colored fret buttons on the neck and a strum bar in the body, essentially letting you mimic the act of playing a guitar while color-coded notes fly down your screen according to the song being played. The object of course is to hit the right colored notes in time with those on the screen, whilst hitting the strum bar to simulate strumming the strings of a guitar. If you've ever seen Dance Dance Revolution, it's along the same lines, but with less energy expended and alot more hand dexterity required.

Yes, Steve... I wore the "National Scream" shirt just for you.

The greatest appeal of the Guitar Hero series is simply this: it gives musically-challenged people like me the ability to feel as if I'm really playing guitar along to some of rocks greatest tunes, without having a clue how to actually play. Anyone who's ever fingered their steering wheel while driving along to "You Really Got Me" or "Sweet Child O' Mine" can understand the attraction of this game. It's basically air guitar with an added sense of skill and accomplishment. I've never played a real note on a guitar in my life, and yet can already nail riffs and chords on the Medium setting. Don't let me misguide you however; this game does NOT teach you how to play guitar, no more than playing a combat simulator teaches you to how to fly a fighter jet. But just like piloting a virtual jet into a virtual war is meant to be enjoyable to the typical gamer without being overly complicated (or dangerous), Guitar Hero is designed to let the average person enjoy the sensation of rocking out to the classics without years of music lessons or succumbing to stage fright.

I've come across a few discussions online as to whether musicians who actually know how to play guitar would find this game easier or harder than the average guitar virgin. The obvious answer would seem to be yes, of course, since the game is a watered down simplified version of the real thing; however, some argue that in actuality the strict nature of the game and the necessity to hit the notes EXACTLY as shown with no room for improvisation or adding one's own style makes it MORE difficult for a seasoned player to adapt to the game. Personally I don't believe in that poppycock; to be honest I don't believe in the use of the word 'poppycock' either, but it seemed to fit the idea I was trying to portray nicely, so there you go.

So now, with my little Vince Neil look-alike avatar strumming a Gibson Explorer with Rising Sun graphics (OK, maybe not so little, after all, I AM playing on my 67" widescreen!) I rock away to Cheap Trick's "Surrender", Black Sabbath's "War Pigs", Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name of", and of course, the Crüe's "Shout at the Devil". All I need now is a second player to explore the wonderful world of Co-op play; After all, what's the use in being a guitar hero if you can't share the limelight with your friends? So..... any takers? =)

Welcome to my wonderful world of obsessions.