The other day, I read that they are planning on having some kind of “Guitar Hero” competition at Heritage Square. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. I mean, on the one hand it’s kind of nice to think about all of those pale gamers getting outside for a change—the infusion of a little vitamin D-laden sunlight might be just what they need to stave off a bad case of rickets. And then there’s the fact that an introduction to the outside world might be what it finally takes to let them know that the whole “bald + pony tail” thing is over.
But there are downsides as well. For one thing, getting them all together like that might encourage cross-pollination of the worst sort—the sort that leads to the patter of tiny little fingers across controllers—thereby extending the problem of gamers into yet another generation. And then of course, there’s the delusion factor. At some point, somebody will probably have to explain to them the painful truth: Dude—you’re not playing a guitar.
Not at all. Not even a little bit. Sure, you’re keeping time with the music, but then again, so is the guy who’s tapping his foot, and no one has ever suggested there be a “Foot Tapping Hero” (or even its counterpart: “Finger Drumming Saviour.”) So yeah, basically, “Guitar Hero” has nothing whatsoever to do with playing a guitar. And why? Because learning to play a guitar is hard.
At least it’s a lot harder than learning to play a video game. (Yeah, I know: “But what about all of the hand/eye coordination it takes to play video games?” Let’s be honest: that’s not hand/eye coordination—that’s thumb/eye. And really, unless you plan on someday getting a job as a professional channel surfer, excellent thumb/eye coordination is not the most useful skill to have.) But, as usual, I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s a lot harder to learn to play a guitar than it is to learn to play a “guitar-like” video game—and there’s a pissy little part of me (okay, a pissy large part of me) that insists on people recognizing that.
This is because both of my kids play musical instruments. Clyde plays violin, and Clementine, who has to take the most difficult, circuitous route to get anywhere, plays violin, viola, and double bass (that’s right: she plays instruments in three different clefs). This was by no means an easy feat: on Clementine’s part there were temper tantrums, death threats (both to me and to the violin), and extended bouts of sobbing and screaming, “I hate the violin.” On Clyde’s part there was a small little protest of “I don’t remember signing up for violin,” but for Clyde, any protest at all says a lot.
We kept on through all of the tantrums, though, because I believe that playing a musical instrument can teach you one of life’s most important lessons: how to deal with sucking. When you are first learning to play a real musical instrument, you suck at it for a long time. A really long time. And if you ever hope to to move past that stage, and become a real musician, then you have to learn to deal with that sucking and just move on.
Got that? Suck; work; get better; move on. When you think about it, those are some of the most useful skills you could ever have in this life.
Which is why I think it would be be nice if, instead of having a Guitar Hero competition—with fake guitars—there was one instead that featured real guitars, and real guitarists.
And if you need to justify it, remember this: there’s a lot of guitarists who could benefit from a dose of Vitamin D, too.