Clarification: When I write, I don't prepare or organize my ideas, I just write what I would say if I was talking to you in person, so sometimes my blogs end up a little messy. I don't even proof-read what I write before posting it so you may find grammatical mistakes and poorly written sentences. Sometimes I'll read my blogs a day or two after publishing them and I may re-write things that weren't too clear and any embarrassing grammatical mistake. Also, English is not my first language, so I apologize if reading my blogs become a struggle. Of course, if this is the case, I would imagine you wouldn't continue reading.

Jan 19, 2010

Guitar Zero

Many good things have been said about video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, and I can see how they deserve merit for becoming such massive hits in a medium where violence, crime, sex, drugs, blood and destruction have an overwhelming presence. I must say that I have nothing against violent games and when I was playing video games I loved them. I don't think I acquired violent tendencies for playing those types of games, or watching violence on TV or horror movies for that matter. I was playing with rubber snakes, rats, and spiders and had a fascination with monsters by age 3, so you can imagine all the things I've seen or read about since due to my obsession with the dark side. I'm still a cuddly sweetheart. But this is my case, so I can't talk for the rest. Maybe it was because I was also interested in other more educative and positive things. In any case, I think it's good that Guitar Hero and Rock Band have managed to grab kids attention with a more constructive theme.

"So what's your point, Cesar, explain us", you two or three readers I have might ask. Well, I just don't like those Guitar Hero or Rock Band. I mean, as games, they are great and all, but playing them doesn't makes too much sense to me. I guess saying I don't like those games is not accurate, maybe what I really mean is that I think the people playing these games all the time are doing something stupid. I'm sorry, but I do. Let me elaborate, don't hit me just yet.

You see, when you play Guitar Hero, you are not doing anything remotely close to playing a real guitar. However, to master the game, you must invest a considerable amount of time, which had you invested it in practicing on a real guitar instead, you could have learned quite a bit, to the point where you could have been able to play a few things and wanted to keep getting better. If you are just a casual Guitar Hero/Rock Band player, then yes, you will (probably) enjoy the game more than the first few guitar lessons, so play, knock yourself out. But if you're playing 4 or 5 days a week, 30 minutes or more...

Now, don't say "I tried to learn how to play guitar once and I sucked, I'm just not musical, I wasn't born with that talent". Don't say that because I will slap you, and I don't mean that kind of slap. No one is born with that talent and everyone is capable of learning how to play any instrument, end of discussion. It may be easier for some more than others, but not by much. It's true, all you need is some discipline, like sitting down and practicing 4 or 5 days a week for, hmmm, 30 minutes.

You might already know I'm a musician, and that I play guitar and sing in The Watermarks, and you might think that it's easy for me to say this since I was born "talented". Where did I get this talent from then, because I don't know. No one in my family that I know of plays anything or can sing to save their lives, in fact, they are all tone deaf. Well, not all. After I started with the guitar, my brother started playing drums and became an excellent drummer, and I have a younger cousin who years later also learned how to play guitar. Even more incredible is the fact that I sing. I had tried many times to sing and you don't want to know how much I sucked. I have recordings of me attempting to sing that were very discouraging, but when on my previous band we got tired of looking for a singer, I decided I was going to do it. It wasn't pretty at first and I can tell you, with all honesty, that I sucked donkey balls, but I kept doing it, and even though I don't think I'm that good now, it sounds a whole lot better. So shut up, you can play guitar, I'll even teach you, if you want (I actually became a guitar teacher for a little while after taking lessons for two years). I need work anyways.

So, if you find yourself playing Guitar Hero quite a bit, do yourself a favor and get a cheap guitar and start practicing. If you think that playing the "musical" video games  is fun, you'll be amazed as how much more pleasurable is to be able to play a song you like from beginning to end on a real guitar. And if you ever get together with other musicians to play songs that you like together, it will blow your fucking mind away. It feels awesome. I remember when I used to play with my brother, when we lived in the 10th floor of this condo in Venezuela, and the neighbor downstairs always came upstairs and banged on our door to complain. It was pure adrenalin.

Joe Perry couldn't have chosen better words the night when I had the fortune to see Aerosmith on a recent trip I made to the fantastic Abu Dhabi. "There ain't nothing like the real thing", he said, referring to the video game that features the music of his band. Now, can you imagine try to use Guitar Hero's tiny guitar as a phallic symbol? You'll be laugh at. Guitars are just plain sexy.

Do you want to be a real guitar hero or do you rather be a guitar zero? It's up to you.

Until next time, kid!


oberata said...


Nailed it, here. I have a 13 year old who lives 'under someone else's roof' and who lacks the supervision (aka LOVE) to steer him clear of endless hours at video games like this. It's one of those things I can't control, yet must do damage control on the times I have him with me.

I don't want to be the cane-wielding cynic either, shouting that "those games'll rot yer mind!" But if I'd not seen firsthand effects (laziness, lack of focus) I wouldn't bother mentioning it here. Loved your point about the FEELING of practicing something redeeming. As an electronic musician myself, I know what it feels like to persevere, endure suckdom, and then perform at a level where you say, "DAMN, that actually was fucking cool."

A neighbor of mine who has twin 14 year old boys bemoans the same thing about the "dead end" games. "They have NO USABLE SKILLS," he complains, as they build virtual mansions, buy virtual fleets of Rolls Royces, and assemble rollercoasters in the Internet Playverse. "It's making me insane and there's no end to it."

Thanks for pumping more truth out there. Maybe you'll stretch beyond your magazine crowd! I'll def. retweet, etc.


michel said...

Well, I like the Guitar Hero thing though I only play it ocassionaly, and just as non-intelectual entertainment thing (just like watching tv or spending hours online, for example). Although it is in fact a waste of time, I find it useful for guitar players so they get more familiar with the concept of time, since unfortunately, many guitarrists (and musicians in general) have never and will never play along a metronome or a click in their lives.

The first time I played the game I played it with some other musicians that have never played it before. Surprisingly, it wasn't the guitar player who did best (and I won't even mention how the singer did), but it was the bassist and the drummer (myself) who were able to score higher. It was funny to see how the 2 of us were tapping our feet while trying to "play" the song, so to be able to know where we were in it, because in order to score points you have the play the right button at the right time.

I have also seen people who've never played an instrument in the past but bought a guitar and started playing and taking classes etc. after getting hooked by the Guitar Hero game. I'm sure most of them will play for few months and then hide it in the closet, but that's what happens most often with guitars anyway. Or how many people bought a guitar to impress that girl and never played ever again?

Overall, I agree with your main point, but you have to remember it is just a game and not a resource to aspiring musicians.

CE54R said...

It's true. I know it's just recreational, but when I see someone spending too much time in such games it bothers me a little. I'd rather see them play Grand Thieve Auto or something. I know I don't really have a good reason to be bothered. Then again, you should never take me too seriously. Half of my rant is written jokingly.

But you're so right about the metronome. People don't know how important it is. Every time I sat down to play guitar, I used my old school metronome. People can't understand how important rhythm is.

Thanks for your comment.