Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gaming Review: Rocksmith

If Lorde has inspired you to unleash your inner musician, then look no further than the awesome video game “Rocksmith”.  Available from the library for both PS3 (the 2014 version) and Xbox360, this is nothing like any game you’ve ever played.  What did you say?  I’ll be learning a skill while playing a video game?  Why can’t all my school subjects be like this??  Tell me about it!  If learning to drive was as much fun as playing Gran Turismo I wouldn’t have been in my 20s before I got my drivers licence.

I spent many happy hours banging away on a plastic drumkit when “Rocksmith’s” predecessors, “Rockband” and “Guitar Hero” came out.  The great thing about “Rocksmith” is you don’t have to buy pretend musical instruments; all you need is an electric guitar and you’re away.  According to everybody’s favourite source for dodgy information, Wikipedia,there can occasionally be problems linking the USB cable that comes with the game to the output jack on some electric guitars.  Be warned, you may need to buy a pickup to make it all work.

Luckily for me, a friend of mine bought the version that came with a guitar so we were good to go.  A group of us gave the game a test run one rainy Sunday.  I have some limited guitar skills which I think really helped.  The non-player in the group found the whole thing a little frustrating.

The format is similar to Rockband, with each string assigned a colour.  Of course the added complication is that you’re not just working with 5 buttons, but there are five strings and multiple finger positions on each string.  The song choices were excellent with 55 to choose from, think anyone from the Foo Fighters to Bob Dylan.  I loved the fact that the game adjusted the level of difficulty depending on how well you were doing.  We all struggled to translate what we were seeing on the screen to the guitar we were holding and the number of notes and chords decreased so we didn’t get all Rockstar and smash the guitar over the TV.

For a complete newbie guitarist there is a sweet, “learn to play” section which is as basic as how to hold and use a pick.  The main challenge when you’re learning the guitar is that you spend the whole time with your head down checking where your fingers are going, which makes watching the screen while playing Rocksmith something of a challenge.
It’s definitely an awesome way to learn to play the guitar, but watching our newbie I came to realise that as with anything worth doing, you just have to practise - a lot.  So whether you’re doing that by playing Rockband, or getting guitar lessons, there really is no quick and dirty way to become an accomplished guitar player (although some ways are more fun than others). 

If learning by playing a videogame all sounds a bit lame and you would rather take your guitar to the garden, then might I recommend some learning-to-play-guitar books from the library.  I still have some yellowing pages of photocopied chord charts from the library books I learnt guitar from.  If watching someone is more your style then there are always DVDs. 

However you decide to go about it, I wish you luck in your pursuit of guitar greatness.  Maybe one day we can have a jam together, I’ll be the one with the plastic drum kit.

- Lucy


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