A Video Game Review for #nerdy9th

For #nerdy9th, I’m going to talk about my recent video game obsession!

As you may know, I am not much of a video gamer. I tend to get “hooked” and obsess over games for a few months before dropping them. I played the Sims online last year for about 6 months. I play Minecraft, but periodically delete my worlds to start all over. I loved Final Fantasy X, but that’s about the only typical video game I get into. Most video games are either too solitary– they are single-player games, like FFX– and therefore don’t really scratch the social itch I have as a strong extrovert. Or they’re too multiplayer, and I end up either addicted to the large online community (and therefore have to cut myself off), or the community is just awful, because apparently being on the Internet gives people free license for being dickbags.

However: I love Rock Band.

I love Rock Band because it is a small-scale multiplayer game. Like a LAN party game. And it’s cooperative, so I’m not sitting there trying to teabag my best friend (or, more likely, be a good sport while he frags me into oblivion).

I love Rock Band because it’s basically home-karaoke, but you can play even if you can’t carry a tune with your voice. But it’s one flaw is that it has a bunch of funny “instruments” that, really, are just for a video game and have no other purpose.

Enter Rock Smith.

This video game is like Rock Band or Guitar Hero… but for functioning guitars and basses. It doesn’t have a vocal component (although some versions might?) or drums, but if you have a guitar or bass guitar with an electric pickup, you can use the special included USB cord to plug in and play.

It rocks so hard.

2015-12-25 08.40.57I got a bass for Christmas (Fender P-bass, in case you were wondering), and I’ve been practicing and taking lessons, both online and in a music store. I’m learning solid fundamentals in my lessons, and reinforcing them with the online videos I’m watching. Rock Smith has a series of lessons as well that combine a video with a practice session, where you apply what was in the video, and the game “listens” and tells you if you did it right.

It also has a series of little arcade games, like a duck-shooter that you play by hitting the right fret and picking the note. Or a slider game where, if you overshoot the slide, your little ninja guy falls off a tower and dies. These are extremely useful exercises for teaching some basic techniques and training the muscle memory to be able to use them.

Oh, and did I mention the Session Mode (freeform, where you can add in studio instruments, like a drum machine or piano as needed)?

There’s even a “mastery” play mode where, when you’ve started to really master a song, Rock Smith will hide the note prompts from you. In case you hadn’t noticed, most rock bands do not have a music stand and sheet music in front of them on stage, and Rock Smith aims to get you playing without having to look at the screen, too.

Want multiplayer? Aaaah, there’s that itch! My guitar-wielding friend and I can get together and rock out to the same tune, much as we would for Rock Band… but with our actual skills being relevant!

One of the songs my teacher gave me to learn was in the song list, so I tried playing with it. My teacher gave me a somewhat different arrangement than Rock Smith has, but the game doesn’t know if I’m playing a C on the E string or the A string, as long as the sound is right, so I can use my teacher’s instructions to give me a “boost up” in Rock Smith.

It can’t teach you proper finger position or posture, although there are videos that cover those topics. But the cable just getting the notes that you play, not how you play them. So I still need to reinforce good posture and playing position in order to learn good habits and not mess up my body or develop sloppy fingering technique.

But as of last night, I’m at 69% mastery of the All-American Rejects’ song Gives You Hell, and that puts a big smile on my face.