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Another Portland Blog

Monday, December 03, 2007


In defense of a complete waste of time

First South Park made fun of the phenomenon. Then last week Slate ran an article written by Sleater Kinney's Carrie Brownstein condemning it. The big question behind the minor controversy: why waste dozens of hours mastering video games like Guitar Hero III or Rock Band when you could spend that time learning an actual instrument or putting together a real band?

The answers are obvious but still I feel the need to point them out here on the internet. Without further ado, here's my defense of games that enable players to pretend they're rock gods.

1. Learning how to play a real instrument sucks

I started taking guitar lessons in high school. I threw away hundreds of dollars of my parents' money and hundreds of hours trying to pull off bar chords and a decent cover of "She's So Heavy." I still practice every now and then. Despite all the effort, I can't even play "Blowing in the Wind," AKA "One of the Easiest Songs to Play on a Guitar in the History of Guitars." Why? One reason: part of the pinky finger on my left hand was chopped off in a freak accident when I was a kid, rendering it clumsy and worthless when it comes to chord changes. Another reason: I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever.

But after a recent night of barhopping, I returned to a friend's apartment and pulled off a pretty decent cover of "War Pigs" on Guitar Hero 2 without ever having held one of the game's plastic guitars. I'd rate the sense of self-satisfaction that resulted afterwards on the same level of spending an hour fumbling through the opening chords of "Wish You Were Here" on the acoustic guitar currently gathering dust behind my couch.

Need I keep going? Ok...

2. Watching your friends play real instruments sucks

At one point or another, we've all found ourselves trapped in a dorm room or a friend's house as they attempt to impress everyone with their guitar skills. They get three bars into a Weezer song or, worse yet, "Stairway to Heaven" before choking and muttering, "No, wait, I got it this time guys." This sort of thing can drag on for hours if you let it. I once spent thirty minutes watching a neighbor botch the dungeon theme from Super Mario Brothers. All things considered, I would have rather watched him blast his way through a video game version of Boston's "More Than a Feeling."

3. Being in a real rock band sucks

Only a select few ever make it to the point of destroying themselves with booze, groupies, STDS and giant stacks of money. The rest might be lucky enough to go on a club tour across the states in a tiny van with their annoying-as-hell bandmates. As much fun as it might be to bet your future on the off-chance your band is going to make it, going on an imaginary world tour in Rock Band while working your way up the chain of command at Kinkos just makes more sense. Still not convinced? Track down a copy of DiG! and pay extra close attention to all the scenes featuring The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

4. Video games are all about wasting time

Is there a difference between throwing away a good portion of
your life learning how to suicide bomb opponents in Halo 3 and dinking around with a plastic guitar? Or between playing Guitar Hero 3 and watching TV or movies or blogging or following professional sports or, really, any pursuit of leisure? Nope. They're all ways of blowing off steam and relaxing. One person's hobby is another's unhealthy obsession. Frankly, I have more respect for someone who has mastered every song on Guitar Hero 3 than someone who has watched every single season game featuring their local MLB team. At least the video game obsessive could use their "skills" to win stuff.


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