Some extended family of ours is in the process of moving. During that process, they weeded out and handed down some older belongings of theirs. Among these belongings were an older video game system, a collection of games compatible with said system, and some controllers. When my daughter, Brianna, was handed these items; her reaction is what many physicians and scholars have referred to as going gaga. She didn’t actually make an audible gaga sound. Nonetheless, you could see the glazed look in her eyes and her unnaturally widened smile and know she had definitely been afflicted with gagas.
The next Sunday morning, Brianna had wasted no time in hooking the video game system to our television in the living room. It wasn’t long before she and her brother, Caleb, were playing a game together. This wasn’t just ANY kind of game. This game simulates playing guitar in a band before an audience. It even included a guitar shaped controller. I say because there are no strings and no pickups. There are several colored buttons on the neck as well as a toggle controller on the body where one would normally pick the strings. You choose from a selection of real classic songs. You then use the screen to cue you as to when to press which button on the neck. You must also simulate playing the notes by moving the toggle controller on the body. Anyone who knows me knows that the mere mention of the word guitar is enough to get my attention. So, I sat down and watched Caleb and Brianna do their thing.
I was watching Brianna choose songs from bands like Foghat, Mountain, and Pat Benetar among others. Many of these songs were songs I knew from when I was younger than any of my kids. This made it even more interesting to watch Caleb and Brianna try to tackle songs they had probably never heard previously. The song was cued up and Brianna started ripping through the song like a seasoned axe slinger. I figured some of this was due to the fact that Brianna can play a few chords on a real guitar. This theory was quickly proven wrong. Caleb’s turn came up and he chose a Mountain song. Now this was a classic song but I had doubted Caleb had ever heard the song before. You’d have thought that I had Leslie West, himself, sitting on my couch the way Caleb was ripping through this. He wasn’t familiar with the song and does not play guitar. That didn’t matter because he had played this guitar game quite a few times previously. The kids were having a blast and I was having fun watching their virtual shredfest.
Brianna then held up the guitar shaped controller and said “You wanna give it a try?” Now, I not only had heard these songs many times over my lifetime. I actually knew the chords to a few of them. All the same, I chose the Pat Benetar song. It was a song I knew and I knew the chords. What happened next can only be described as a quick exercise in humility and humiliation. I didn’t make it halfway through the song when I was told by the game that I failed and was booed by the virtual audience. Here I was thinking I could get Pat Benetar to fire her husband. Apparently, I wasn’t even good enough to get an audition for Spinal Tap. I could actually see Nigel Tufnel shaking his head at me and saying I was “dreadfully, frightfully, bloody awful”. I actually went upstairs and grabbed my red Squier Affinity Telecaster. I HAD to assure myself that I KNEW the chords to this song and the passage of time had not erased my memory of those cool power chords.
Caleb took the controller (once he and Brianna stopped laughing at me). He chose another song and started jamming. He was REALLY getting into it. He had his body hunched over and even had a cool grimace on his face. You’d have thought he was headlining a great summer outdoor concert. He suddenly shifted his body back. This motion tugged the controller cord connected to the video game system. Suddenly, the video game system slides off the bottom shelf of the entertainment center and onto the floor. The cool thing was that it landed face up and didn’t cause a skip in the game. Caleb kept playing right through to the end. He then looked at the system on the floor and smiled. “I guess I rocked too hard”. We all had a good giggle out of it. Caleb and Brianna kept playing the game. I remained content to just hold my red Tele. Pat Benetar still has her husband playing by her side and Spinal Tap STILL won’t return my calls.