Rocksmith, video game guitar teacher

As soon as I spied the box cover for Rocksmith in the upcoming releases section at a local retailer I knew I had to have it. I reserved my copy and waited patiently for a month.

I picked up the game at lunch time and spent the afternoon at work anticipating what it was actually going to be like. I was an early Guitar Hero adopter and was a fan of the series for years before I lost interest and my pretend-guitar peripherals started to gather dust. But now I was going to be able to plug my guitar into my PS3 and play a video game. Could it really be that awesome?!

I would have to wait some more as first the PS3 needed a system update, then the game itself needed an update. And then there was the lag issue. I plugged in my guitar, hit a chord, and a quarter second later I could hear it coming out of my TV’s speakers. What the fuck?! THIS SUCKS!! Of course I had completely ignored the suggested audio/video setup guide that came with the game and had picked the easiest, but worst, setup option. I don’t know the science behind it but here is a case where old school analog technology trumps digital. I found the composite cable that came with my PS3 and fed the audio into a stereo receiver. With the TV volume turned down I was getting digital video and analog audio. The lag was gone! And once I adjusted the in-game lag setting for note speed all my technical issues were fixed and I could FINALLY concentrate on Rocksmith.

The soundtrack that ships with the game didn’t completely blow me away but it still had tracks from bands that I love such as Nirvana, The Stones, The Pixies, The Cure, David Bowie, and Soundgarden. I spent a lot of time pondering which song I would play first. But as I soon find out, the game really holds your hand on first play and it lead me right into Satisfaction. Perfect! But my next fit of disappointment came when I started to play the song and realized the game was only feeding me one note of the iconic main riff. It was difficult to hit the note without a better sense of its context. And when more notes finally did come, and more and more of them, I got confused. My brain couldn’t process things fast enough. For one thing the strings aren’t marked with notes, they’re colour coded just like the games with plastic guitars. And I couldn’t always figure out the correct fret, especially the ones in between the numbers.

I left day one unsatisfied but I knew there was something special about the game as well. I was playing a video game with my guitar. I was playing along to some pretty cool songs. I told everyone who asked me about it the next day that I was reserving judgement until I could spend more time with the game. I had mixed feelings but didn’t want to be negative because despite all my complaints I was itching to get back home to play.

With the setup hassle already out of the way I was able to dive right in and it wasn’t much more than an hour later when I had my verdict: I LOVED THIS GAME!! I was still on the steep part of the learning curve but things were beginning to click and my progress started becoming tangible. Each song drew me in more than the last and telling my girlfriend “One more song” became my new mantra. I would get stuck trying to qualify songs I’d never heard of, like “Well OK Honey” by Jenny O and “Gobbledigook” by Sigur Ros, hating them until I broke through and was rewarded with an endorphin rush.

Almost a month later I still can’t wait to play the game whenever I get a chance. More than a few times I’ve thought to myself, “This is the greatest video game I’ve ever played in my life”. I feel the cool rush of addiction as I nail another run and rock out with the same abandon I did with Rock Band, and then realize I’m actually playing an electric guitar. My dexterity is better. I’m playing parts of the neck I never did before. I’m playing songs while I hear them for the first time.

I even thought I had a new band in Muse after rocking out to a couple of their songs. Then I heard this:

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