If you would have told me a year or two ago that my favorite game was going to end up being Rock Band, I would have called you crazy.
What a crazy world we live in.
I had never played Guitar Hero, but I had watched a few other people play it. They looked like complete tools to me, and my brain simply couldn’t process a game which entailed nothing but matching up colored circles, so I decided to pass. The price of entry kept me away too; oh boy, not only do I get an extremely boring game but I also get to pay a premium for a special controller I can’t use with anything else? Sign me the heck up.
I admit, then, that it floored me a bit when I showed up for the Friday night game to find everyone sitting around playing Rock Band. The colored circles had been replaced with flattened rectangles, and one guy was doing karaoke instead of color-matching, but otherwise it looked like the same nonsense. I kind of just sat back, waiting for the fever to pass, a process which took three hours. I couldn’t put up with this every week; I realized I would have to start playing, if only to have something to do while waiting for the game to start.
So one night I picked up the drumsticks and set it to “Easy”. Two sets later I stepped it up to “Medium”. I was a little bummed when it came time to shut the Xbox off and crack out the books and dice.
The following week I elected to take up the mic. I had a blast on the songs I’d known for years, which thanks to my atrophied appreciation for music was pretty much limited to Bon Jovi and Eye of the Tiger, but had to really hustle to figure my way through the songs I wasn’t familiar with. Over the course of the next few weeks I learned what it was the game was asking of me, how to keep my pitch aligned and that little arrow in place. In order to learn the songs, I dumped all my video game music and Weird Al albums (well, okay, not all my Weird Al) from my mp3 player and filled it up with the Rock Band playlist.
The next step was to overcome the mental block I had against looking like a tool and pick up the guitar. I went for bass at first, mainly because the other guys didn’t want to give up lead. One setlist on Easy and I felt confident on Medium. The following week I got my first taste of lead guitar. I would say that’s the moment I became completely lost. I knew I had to have my own Rock Band set. The price tag was still a bit steep, but fortunately Christmas was a couple short months away and I knew Santa would come through for me.
We all, as a group, got it into our heads to step up to Hard guitar about the same time, to try and tackle that god forsaken orange fret. This made me more than a little queasy, but it worked out in the end. We all re-trained our fingers and devoured the setlist, feeling like hot shit until World Tour brought us to Sydney and introduced us to Green Grass and High Tides. We’d inevitably fail out about 6% into the first guitar solo and lose a million fans. Fewer fans meant we would suck to badly to be allowed in Sydney, so we’d go replay some old setlists to build the fanbase back up and try again. The thought never occured to us to just play the song in Quickplay, possibly because we are all stupid.
I am delighted to report that I can indeed pass Green Grass, and my current goal is to be able to do it on Expert. My mp3 player is no longer completely full of Rock Band songs, but music I branched out into because I thought I’d enjoy it, not because it’d help me get better at Rock Band. Some of my favorite songs now are ones I’d never have heard if not for this magical game. I’ve developed a fine appreciation for older music as well; my love for Aqualung is virtually pornographic in its intensity.
Aside from the crash course in musical appreciation, though, it turns out that matching colored squares is the most fun I’ve had in a video game in years. Rock Band gets played every single day in my crib. Which has about put me in the poor house thanks to the constant light-speed battery consumption, but hey. I’ll consider it Awesome Tax.