Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Used To Hate Guitar Hero But Now I Like It or, What Else Am I Missing Out On?

The kind of people who play video games in their spare time are usually not "my" kind of people.

If you know me at all, you know I make this kind of sweeping generalization a lot, and I make no apologies for it. More often than not, gamers exhibit qualities that just don't jive with me. When I think of a "typical" video game playing dude-person, I think: Anti-social, pimply, over-mothered and under-sexed nerd. Video games aren't sexy. They aren't attractive. They don't score points with Lisa Zine. I find gaming extremely geeky, and not in a Rivers Cuomo circa The Blue Album kind of way. I'm (sorta) sorry for feeling this way, but mostly I'm not.

So why then, do I love Guitar Hero?

My sister got a Wii for Christmas, and ever since, I've been addicted to this stupidly awesome game, and it has me questioning my values. Why now, God? Why must you make me eat my words? Why let my addictive personality disprove years of firm belief?

I am drowning in my own hypocrisy.

As a kid, video games were the farthest thing from my mind. Young Lisa preferred embossing personalized stationery and constructing flimsy tables out of wood scraps. Young Lisa wove friendship bracelets (for herself), and learned how to sew pajama pants.* Young Lisa devoted her youth to practical skills. Life-enriching skills. Amish skills. Video games? Puh-leaze. Such activities provided nothing of any tangible value, and in my laughably small circle of childhood friends, Handset-Alacrity and Ability-to-sit-in-one-place-for-hours-at-a-time did not garner much esteem or respect. But then again, neither did doing extra-credit book reports. Shit.

In 1995, the same year I wrote three unassigned essays on The Earth's Layers, Sharks, and Frogs, I played Sonic the Hedgehog on my friends' Sega Genesis. This phase lasted perhaps 3 months. I can count the number of times I played on one hand. I was pathetic at this game.

At age 15 my mom thought it appropriate to buy my sister and me a Nintendo 64. She'd heard, no doubt on Oprah, that Nintendo 64s were very popular among kids our age. Apparently she had forgotten that she was the mother of two daughters. Daughters who had never before expressed any interest in video games. Mom threw in Mario Kart (which was OK I guess) and a game that accompanied "A Bug's Life." As in the Pixar movie. Just like you're thinking, it completely sucked. If I recall correctly, in order to beat a level, you had to find a golden seed or something. For the remainder of our Christmas vacation I searched and searched for the golden seed, arduously making it to Level 2. It frustrated the bejeezus out of me until one day, our 5 year old neighbor came over and beat the game within the span of an hour. Bullshit.

In college, I took a course that explored communicative elements of video games (I think?) and in it the professor described the habits of World of Warcraft players in China. There are kids out there who won't bathe or eat because they can't stand the thought of leaving Warcraftland. Actual jobs have been created by players who need to take breaks from their virtual world, but refuse to miss whatever cyber-battle might happen in their absence. They hire people to play for them. Avatar stand-ins. What the hell. People have even killed themselves over shit that happened in Second Life. The real world is hard enough, people. Why get suicidal over things that...aren't...real? I don't get it, and likely never will.

Such was the extent of my relationship with video games, until Guitar Hero. When the game first came out, I absolutely hated it when friends would interrupt a perfectly rousing conversation only to stare, zombie-like, at the television set and hit buttons on a fake, cheap looking virtual instrument. I'd storm out of the room like a little child, saying things like, "I hate Guitar Hero. Your guitar looks stupid. This party sucks, etc." But all that's changed now. Because I'm actually pretty good at Guitar Hero. I like music, and I've always liked buttons. And when it comes to new things, I'll usually get hooked on those with which I show an immediate proficiency. So lucky me. I have something to do on Friday nights.

I realize I'm very late in jumping on the bandwagon. I'm always late to the bandwagon. I was late for Sex and the City. Late for LOST. I only just now started playing with Pogs. But so what. Better late than never, I say. If anything, Guitar Hero has taught me a lesson to be less hateful and to realize that I'm probably good at a lot of things I haven't tried. Like cocaine.

It beats sewing pajama pants.

*I can prove it.


*RyRowe* said...

I feel the same way about video games, I just don't dig'em. But I have always hung onto this a gaming dork: "everyone has an 'inner gamer', they just need to find the game"
Im sure we could extrapolate some greater meaning outta this, but i dont really care to at this moment.
I still dont really like video games, and to be honest, I think guitar hero/rock band ruins songs. Songs I once considered awesome or badass just dont conjure up the same feelings after hearing it butchered a hundred times on guit. hero/rock band. So, I guess the reason I haven't come over to play guit.hero isn't because I don't like you, I just really cant stand it

Libby said...

Um, I'm right there with you on being late to jump on the guitar hero bandwagon. The boys introduced it to me last week and Richter brought home her mom's Rock Band and it's all over now. My eyes were GLAZED over last night when I went to bed after playing the drums on Rock Band for 3 hours.

Also, please tell me you made that picture yourself.

Lisa said...

It's Ok, Ryan. I understand. It could also be because I don't have a compost pile. I don't play guitar hero as much as I've implied. I think the phase might be ending, so we can drink Judge Roys, or things that actually taste good, instead.

Lisa said...

I didn't make the picture, Libby. I'm sorry.