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Rocksmith… the final word

We made it, you guys.

Over the course of about four months, I have played through around 60 hours of guitar practice aided by Rocksmith 2014.

This is, I’ll remind you, the amount Rocksmith expects you to do in two months (apparently around half the time, life gets in the way) but I’m still happy with the amount I’ve improved over that time.

My time spent with guitar before Rocksmith was marred by a real lack of determined forward momentum. I’ve had times in the past where I’d not pick my guitar up meaningfully for months on end because I wasn’t taking lessons and didn’t have a reliable path toward getting better.

I feel like a lot of people are in similar positions, even if they already have a guitar to hand like I do. They want to learn to play, or get better at playing, a musical instrument, but the process of learning an instrument seems alternately boring and intimidating.

Given this relationship, nothing has motivated me to pick up my guitar more than Rocksmith 2014.
It’s remarkable. When I’m playing Rocksmith, getting better feels immediate and propulsive, and when I’m just sitting down with my guitar, I feel able to take advantage of my newfound skill. I feel more accurate and expressive with my instrument than ever before.

The cool part, really, is that after four months I don’t just want to play Rocksmith like normal practice, investing in the eventual fun of actually being able to play.

The structure of Rocksmith – the fact that you’re almost always playing along to actual songs with a degree of complexity you’ll be able to meet – means that there is no practice. You’re playing along with great songs, or you’re playing smart, witty mini-games with your guitar as the controller.

Rocksmith never feels like you’re getting better while you’re playing it, it always feels like you’re there already. It’s an expert use of gamification to make an otherwise humdrum activity immediately compelling.

As my time with Rocksmith went on, I found that the way I interacted with it changed; the experience became much more self-directed, without the constant trail of breadcrumbs the game presents you with at first.

This looser structure is marginally less effective in drawing the player along, requiring you to seek out things to do rather than handing them to you.

That said, the constant influx of new content and the vast library of downloadable content mean that there’s never a lack of new things to move on to. I was having fun and finding fresh content right up until the end, which meant that I was getting better right up until now too. I’m hoping that more great content to come will keep me learning new things as I continue forward with it.

On this note, if anyone at Ubisoft is reading, I’m embarrassed by how much I would pay for a nice big Kvelertak song pack.

I’ve done a lot of writing about the catalogue of songs in Rocksmith or the here’s an idea of how I feel about Rocksmith 2014.

In January, I bought myself, among other things, a new MIDI keyboard, and I found myself wishing for something that could give me a framework through which to learn the keys the way Rocksmith taught me guitar.

This is more than the usual contrived ways in which people talk about how gaming “made their lives better”, by slightly improving their hand-eye coordination or exercising their problem-solving skills.

This is a game that has actively helped me gain and refine a skill through which I can articulate myself creatively once the game has been turned off, and I can’t think of a single game that has given me more.

3 Comments

  1. Keith D Wernert

    Piano is my favorite instrument and I do wish they had something like Rocksmith for piano (or a keyboard in the case of a game). I took a class in college to learn and did learn quite a bit but once it came to having to get actually good, it’s all on you in your free time. I feel a game would do the same for piano/keyboard that Rocksmith does for guitar. But for now, I guess my Casio keyboard will have to wait..

  2. Something like this perhaps? http://www.richardlagendijk.nl/foto/cip/mix_sfx64_01.jpg
    😉

    Seriously, I’m with you though, I find guitar very tricky but I would certainly give Tinklesmith (or whatever) a go!

  3. I was originally thinking about how cool a Drumsmith with an electronic drumkit would be cool, but apparently the drum track with Rock Band or later Guitar Hero games is basically that, so that’s definitely cool.

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