Videogame leads to PTSD for pets

By Jeff Linville -

On Tuesday night, I found myself yelling at the TV.

This isn’t an uncommon occurrence in the home of a sports nuts. I’m sure if you had a microphone hidden inside living rooms during the Super Bowl, you would have heard all kinds of shouting, screaming and bad language (for the record, I totally nailed the prediction that Mike Remmers would cost us the title).

In fact, I am pretty sure I probably yelled at the TV Monday night while watching the NBA playoffs. I’m positive I yelled at the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.

Sure, I know that no one can hear me and that I’m wasting my breath, but I just can’t seem to stop myself.

My cat and my Jack Russell terrier would probably prefer I never watched sports as it makes for some restless evenings in the Linville household.

But on Tuesday night, the difference was that I wasn’t watching sports. I was playing guitar.

That’s right, I was yelling at my TV because of guitar playing.

First let me begin by stealing a line from my dad. He said a fellow once told him that saying you have been playing guitar for 20 years doesn’t really tell the whole story.

Some people learn a bit about music in the first year and then just repeat that knowledge for the next 20 years. Others never stop learning and get 20 unique years of knowledge.

There is a whole lot of truth to that. If a fellow plays guitar, just for fun ask him or her how many songs they could play start to finish off the top of the head. For most guitar players, that number is pretty low.

Sure, we might spend hours trying to nail the intro riff to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” or “Stairway to Heaven.” However, we might never have progressed to playing the entire song.

I’m quite guilty of this myself. I can play the start of bunches of songs like “Crazy Train” or Metallica’s “One” but the rest of the songs are a mystery.

And of course if you haven’t played a song often enough or recently enough, you might remember only the verses or the chorus, but not both.

Then there are the songs where you remember the chords just fine, but you stammer and stutter and lose entire lines of lyrics or jumble up the order.

Ask me to play a song start to finish off the top of my head, and I can probably count on my fingers, and possibly a big toe, the number I can play.

Then along came this videogame phenomenon called Guitar Hero. Don’t bother to learn guitar because the game comes with a simulation that has absolutely nothing to do with the stringed instrument. Push some colored buttons on the neck in time with some colored circles on the screen, and you can be a rock god.

What can I say, I got the game and a couple of guitars. With a daughter, I figured this was a way to break into the idea of playing the real thing.

Then someone finally came up with a much better game in October 2011. Rocksmith said to forget the plastic fake and hook this cable into a real axe.

You pluck a string on the guitar, and the game will tell you if you are doing it right.

I found the idea fascinating, but after quickly growing bored with Guitar Hero, I feared I would be wasting my money.

Then Rocksmith updated the game with a 2014 edition, and it got excellent reviews.

For Christmas a year and a half ago, my best friend got me a copy of the game, and I have played many hours on this thing.

Sure, it came with a bunch of songs already loaded in the game, but people’s tastes vary widely, so I soon found myself adding songs off the Xbox Live website.

What can I say, I have a love/hate relationship with this game.

Yes, I love that it helps you learn songs, starting from an easy, basic version of the song all the way up to an authentic reproduction of the original.

But that’s also kind of the problem for me. The game charts your progress with stats. And getting too focused on those stats can be infuriating or depressing.

For example, there are a couple of songs in the game that I was sure I already knew how to play like Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm.” So I sat down and gave those a try, and the game said I was only up around 75-80 percent. So then I was really confused.

Turns out there were a few places in the songs where I didn’t play the guitar exactly like Richie Sambora. Close enough that the average listener wouldn’t notice, but the game sure did.

In other cases, I know exactly how the song sounds, but I reach the limits of my physical ability.

For example, Tuesday night I was trying to play the solo to Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary.”

With the speed slowed down to 90 percent, I was really accurate and only missed two notes out of dozens. Then with the speed at full strength, I missed six notes. Then seven, nine and 13 as I got progressively worse.

Full speed was just too fast for me, and I started to tighten up and make mistakes. Then the cursing began, and the cat ran out of the living room and hid in the bathroom.

I might wait a day or two to return to the game, but I know I will. Why? Because I do want to get 20 years of learning, not one year of learning 20 times.

By Jeff Linville

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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