The Silly Game of Guitar Heros
There’s a new game in the house–Guitar Heros. It’s actually been here awhile but I just discovered it when my son got the latest edition of songs and most of them are from the 70s and 80s. I walked through the room the other day and Boston’s “Long Time” was cranked up to about 9 on a scale of 10. So I did what you’re supposed to do: I pumped my fist in the air and started singing along. Zach hit the pause button and stared at me nonplussed. “You know this song?” he asked me. “Know it?” I said. “I lived it! Now unpause it.”
Shortly after that he handed me guitar and we created a play list consisting of Blue Oyster Cult, Bon Jovi, Allman Brothers, Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd. (He let me play the easy level while he played the drums at expert level.) Following the colored-coded notes and executing perfect timing to hit the button that is supposed to be the guitar strings is no easy task. Whenever I hit the wrong note Zach would shake his head and tell me to concentrate harder. But concentrating harder always made me miss more notes.
How productive is Guitar Heros anyway? At the end of an hour and a half of rocking out Detroit all I had to show for it was sore wrist and burning eyes. I was talking to the former lead singer of a big country group the other day about Guitar Heros. He thinks the game really does help with learning to play a real guitar. It teaches timing and discipline, he said. I asked Zach if he wanted to learn to play a real guitar and said no.
A few days later I was talking to the meat salesman who comes through the neighborhood every few months and sells me really good steaks at a fair price. His other job is in a rock band. “Man,” he told me. “That Guitar Heros can make you look silly. I mean, man, I play lead guitar. I can do arpeggios and everything, man. But when I try to play that game, my fingers get all tangled.” He played a bit on his air guitar to show me what that would look like. Like he said, silly. (I looked up arpeggios later because I figured if a meat salesman who also plays in a rock band knows what it means, then I should too.)
My fear is that I’m wasting time banging on a piece of plastic. That I’m fastly contracting Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. That my son will never find a job that will require him use his Guitar Hero skills. I fear these sorts of things–until my son hands me my plastic guitar. Like always, there’s a gleam in his eye, and a smile ready to break out. “Let’s rock and roll, dad,” he says. I take the guitar and say, “Got any REO Speedwagon on there?” He shakes his head in amazement. “What’d you do growing up? Listen to music all the time?” Sure I did, I think. And I wish I could tell him that I listened to music with my dad all the time. But one, that wouldn’t be true. And two, it’s time for my guitar solo.
Maybe the game teaches us timing. And maybe it can make us look silly. But last night Zach and I rocked a frat house for about an hour and a half. At the end of the set, he turned and gave me a high five. I wonder what he’ll tell his children one day about this silly game?