Look Ma’, no strings | VailDaily.com

Look Ma’, no strings

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
HL Guitar Hero!! 01 TS 03-19-09

Parents really have no reason to complain about their kids playing Guitar Hero. The video-game phenomenon doesn’t encourage violence, includes no foul language and most importantly, it just might make their kid want to pick up a real guitar and learn to shred.

Twelve-year-old Skylar Rossi plays drums for her seventh-grade band class at Eagle Valley Middle School. Now she wants to learn to play the guitar too, thanks to her Guitar Hero experiences, she said.

Her classmate, Leroy Medine, feels the same way.

“I think it’s really cool because, you know, you get to learn a lot from it and it kind of feels like you’re in the game in a way, you know, it’s really fun,” Medine said.

Rick Ramunno, another fellow student, said that playing Guitar Hero has strengthened his pinky finger dexterity allowing him to play the trombone more efficiently.

Not bad results for a form of entertainment usually blamed for turning kids into serial killers.

Guitar Hero, a video game published by Activision and RedOctane, let’s players take part in the ultimate fantasy ” a rock-star’s life, minus the drug addiction, booze-induced vomiting and STD sharing. The game let’s you choose from a menu of songs to play while a crowd cheers you on. By pushing color-coded buttons and strumming a pad on the plastic guitar-shaped controller, the player must time his movements with the games on-screen commands. With four different levels of difficulty to choose from, players can keep it simple or really challenge themselves. Decent hand/eye coordination is a must to advance through the levels of the game and a necessity for any real guitar player. If you do poorly, you get booed off stage; do well, you are one step closer to becoming an elite ax master.

Eagle Valley Middle School band teacher Tommy Dodge said Guitar Hero has been a good thing for many of his students.

“I know to the kids it’s boosted their music appreciation and interest,” Dodge said.

Before the advent of Guitar Hero, Dodge said that his students knew very little about the classic rock acts featured in the game like Cream, Pat Benatar and Kiss; now they can’t shut up about them. This has opened up a whole new dialogue between Dodge and his students, he said. He’s almost positive that at least a few of his students will end up playing the guitar because of the video game.

“It’s a music game, it’s not a freakin’ game where we have to kill people and blow stuff up, you know, that’s what I love about it, man,” Dodge said.

Guitar Hero’s impact is stretching beyond household living rooms and into more lucrative surroundings like bars and clubs. Large tournaments are being held in major cities across the country and even closer to home in Avon and Eagle-Vail.

Paddy’s and Loaded Joe’s both host Guitar Hero competitions weekly for a growing number of players.

“Yeah, it’s huge really, everywhere,” said Garrett Parvin. A musician himself, Parvin is the bass player for local metal band Aztec Benjamin and host of Loaded Joe’s weekly Guitar Hero tourney.

With its inclusion of an electronic drum kit, microphone, bass and even larger song list, Rock Band is poised to dominate Guitar Hero in popularity very soon. Parvis said they are setting up competitions to include Rock Band beginning this week. Rock Band is more like a team sport than an individual’s competition since up to four players can interact with the game at the same time with different instruments.

“It’s just fun for everybody to kind of get together and have some beers and pretend to be a rock star,” Parvin said.

One downfall to the dumbed-down level of actual music skill these games require is laziness. Parvin recalled getting frustrated while playing some of the songs on Guitar Hero because they were nothing like the actual way they are supposed to be played. This can build false confidence in gamers who think they will make the transition to a real guitar with ease.

To avoid the frustration of trying to play Guitar Hero like a real guitar, Parvin recommends treating them as two different disciplines. In other words, don’t think that just because you can play guitar that you can play Guitar Hero or that because you can play Guitar Hero you will be able to play a real guitar.

“It’s just like any other video game, it’s just got a different joystick,” Parvin said.

Now in its third incarnation, Guitar Hero is compatible with many different video-game consoles and any number of accessories and expansion kits are available for purchase. And while Rock Band is still a new commodity, its popularity almost guarantees a sequel.

“Coming from a musician’s standpoint … being able to play, and play on stage is one of the greatest thrills in the world, it really is,” Pervin said.

For many, games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are the next best thing. Who knows, the next Jimi Hendrix might learn his first chords on a plastic guitar with no strings.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.

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