I consider myself to be a beginner guitar player. Although I’ve been at it for a few years, my on-and-off strategy is apparently not what’s required to master the instrument, or even become passable, for that matter. My greatest achievement on the guitar is stumbling through the easy bits of the Tristram theme song at half pace. Now Rocksmith is here to solve all of my problems and teach me how to become a godlike rock totem to the skies, because if there’s one thing I’ve got plenty of time for, it’s video games.
Kit unpacked, plugged in, PS3 on. I’m ready to rock. Thank god there’s no installation; I don’t think I could bear to lose the raging erection I’ve developed for this game over the last year. Rocksmith prompts me to jam on my guitar to test its levels and my cat’s perception of safety. Both check out, although Skittle looks like he’s ready to leave the room. I tune my guitar to the soothing explanation by the game’s narrator. Low E needs a bit of tightening because it’s been three days since I’ve played. As I strum, I’m overcome with the feeling like I’m competing in some sort of bonding ritual of music and game – I can hear my guitar sounding through my TV’s speakers.
Enough screwing around, let’s rock. The Rolling Stone’s I Can’t Get No Satisfaction kicks off my journey into the land of musical stardom and subsequently crushes my dreams of achieving said stardom a minute later. I feel like I’m using someone else’s fingers. Where they hell is the fifth fret? I should know this; I’m not that bad. No, thanks, I don’t want to watch a replay of my miserable attempt. The Black Keys’ I Got Mine is up next. My girlfriend is in the next room and can hear my ineptitude. She loves this band so I feel filled with a sense of boyfriend pride to try a little harder. I do… okay, actually. During the song, the game’s dynamic difficulty level scaled up twice. I noticed more notes to play, closer together. My strumming is starting to sound more like the audio being fed back to me. I manage to score 30,000-odd points, three times the bare minimum to progress. I can almost hear the stampede of the groupies now.
Feeling confident, I jump into my first “gig”. I’m to repeat my previous two songs. No sweat. I’ve got this. Jacket off. Shit just got serious. I’m presented with my virtual crowd – a hideous menagerie of video-captured “generic crowd members” that seem to all shop at Mr. Price. They make me feel like I’m being judged by the cast of the original Mortal Kombat. Skittle’s left, I’m all alone. Let’s do this. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction kicks off two difficulty notches higher than my earlier play-through based on my previous face-melting skills, but I don’t struggle too much. Trip over a few notes in I Got Mine as well but otherwise I’m feeling moderately confident. I bag a Trophy for “My First Gig” and give myself a mental pat on the back. Then all of a sudden, another song appears. Oooer, okay. I don’t recognise it. It’s called Angela by Jarvis Cocker. It’s going well and then the on-screen fret board starts panning out and wondering over to the 12th fret. I glance down at my guitar and move my fingers to the double dots but by time I’ve done so, a torrent of green and blue on-screen notes is hurtling towards me like a freight train full of fear and failure. I panic and let go of the strings. I allow the difficulty to slide back down to something more reasonable and bide my time until those familiar red notes make their return. I awkwardly stumble through the rest of the song and decide it’s time to step back from the music for a bit.
Time to shoot some ducks! Rocksmith has a number of technique-building mini-games that I know I should spend a lot of time with. Ducks requires the player to play the correct fret of the required string when a duck appears on that fret. As you play, a bullet fires out of the fret and vaporises the insolent creature, netting you a few points. The problem I had is the game failing to register my strums on the correct fret. I think I need to press down harder. Calluses await!
And that’s about it for now. If you enjoyed this little piece, stay tuned for my next one at some indeterminate point in the hopefully not-too-distant future \o/