Rocksmith teaches guitar skills through gaming interface
Published: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
When Guitar Hero was released, it promised the player a chance to feel like a real rock star. Someone who had never held a guitar in their life could press those colored plastic buttons and experience the rush that accompanies artistic creation. Soon after the Guitar Hero franchise began to add new features to the games, bringing them even closer to reality, players could apply hammer-ons and pull-offs, apply pedals and effects, and hit the whammy bar to distort the sound.
With each new generation, the franchise, along with competitor Rock Band, pushed the rhythm genre further toward true musicianship. But no matter how close Activision and EA got to reality, they were still light years away from teaching players honest to goodness music skills.
Real life guitar heroes like Noel Gallagher and Jack White have spoken out in criticism of the genre. Gallagher was quoted as saying, "Playing Guitar is not a f***ing game!"(CVG) and White agreed, saying, "It's depressing to have a label come and tell you that [Guitar Hero] is how kids are learning about music and experiencing music."(NME).
This year, however, developer Ubisoft looks to address the criticism with a revolutionary new game called Rocksmith. Released in October, Rocksmith does not come bundled with a plastic guitar peripheral like rhythm games in the past. Instead, the game comes with a state of the art USB cable that connects the XBOX 360 or PS3 to any real electric guitar.
For the first time ever, players can play a rhythm game on their consoles with a real instrument.
Introduced as the first "authentic guitar game," Rocksmith is actually a fusion of two elements: a guitar teaching tool and a video game. With over 50 songs from a wide array of artists such as Nirvana, The Rolling Stones, The Strokes, The Black Keys, Titus Andronicus, Radiohead, The White Stripes, and Best Coast, as well as a large collection of guitar-based mini-games, Rocksmith has quite a few features to entertain those looking for a video game experience.
Along with songs, the game also features guitar lessons for different techniques such as palm muting. For those who want to use Rocksmith as a guitar tool, the game features a fully customizable amp creation area. In this area, players can create unique guitar sounds by adding effect pedals, new amps, as well as new tones that players can unlock through playing the game.
As for game play, the game starts every player at the most basic level, playing simple one-note progressions rather than chords. As the player develops skills, however, the game automatically adjusts for the increase in skill.
Rocksmith is an appealing concept, learn to play guitar via video game guidance- but how well does the game accomplish this goal?
I have had a guitar for a few years, a Fender standard Telecaster, which had suffered through my incredibly poor guitar prowess. I could play very few chords, and the ones I could play sounded like a dying animal. I could never find the time to take lessons, and the video tutorials were more frustrating than helpful.
When I first heard about Rocksmith, I was intrigued, so I decided to find out if it could really help me learn to play. I plugged by trusty Telecaster into my XBOX and started up "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones. At once the stream of descending colored notes down the neck on the virtual guitar on screen seemed familiar, yet at the same time formidable since I had to find the correct finger placement on the neck of my physical guitar. For the first hour of game play, I was horrible at any song I attempted but I did not quit.
After a few more attempts at the Rolling Stone's classic, I began to feel a shift. Now, instead of fumbling about the strings to find the correct notes, I was confidently sliding my left hand up and down the neck of my guitar, hitting most of the notes and making it sound authentic. To my surprise, I found that I could replicate my performance outside the context of the game. Through a mix of hard work, patience, and fun, I had developed a new skill from playing this video game.
Rocksmith is at once the hardest and most rewarding game I have ever played. That is not to say that the game is perfect. There is a slight delay between playing a note on the guitar and that note registering in the game, and sometimes-steep spikes in difficulty can be frustrating.
Veteran guitar players may find some of the soundtrack a bit too simplistic. But overall, Rocksmith accomplishes most of what it sets out to do. For anyone willing to put in the work, Rocksmith is both an impressive revolution in the rhythm game genre, and an enjoyable and satisfying guitar trainer.