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Entries in Rocksmith 2014 (1)


Teach Yourself Guitar with Rocksmith 2014 

Ever since I was a little kid playing Mattel handheld football people have been talking about how to use video games to get kids to actually learn something. The old trope is, kids waste time playing video games but if they could just learn something while playing then it would be a win-win.

The problem is that kids see right through this, and games that are "educational" or teach something "useful" aren't particularly fun. Some learning games are great, and as a Dad I often make my kids practice their math facts (for example) using apps on their iPods. But my kids know they're memorizing arithmetic and not really playing a game.

I think comparing Rocksmith 2014 Edition, a "game" from Ubisoft that teaches you to play guitar, to a game like Rock Band or Guitar Hero does both a disservice. People play Guitar Hero to relax, have fun and fantasize a little about playing guitar with a band on stage. Rocksmith uses some of the principals of this type of game but instead of a video game controller in the shape of a guitar the player uses a real electric guitar. The learning curve might be a bit more steep, but before you realize it you're actually playing the guitar.

To be fair, I have been playing guitar for many years and although I'm not great I do have some abilities. If anything I think that ended up being a bit of a hindrance in using Rocksmith. Anyone who learned guitar the old fashioned way by reading books and looking at chord charts might find this method difficult to grasp at first. Like Guitar Hero Rocksmith uses a sort of moving "track" to show you which notes are coming up next, except the "track" is broken down into the individual strings and frets of the guitar. For someone who has played before it's not the most intuitive thing to grasp at first, and I have to admit that my 40-something brain found it hard to translate but eventually I got the hang of it. For someone who has never played guitar or only has very rudimentary knowledge I think it might be much easier to master.

There are 50 some-odd songs to choose from (main list is here) and teaching those songs is the core of the experience. When you start to learn a song the first time through it starts so simply that it almost seems like you've misjudged the settings somehow and made it too easy. But each time you go through the song it gets a little more difficult, and pretty soon (if you've taken the time to go through the individual lessons) you're playing the song you've been working on.

There is one BIG issue that anyone thinking of buying it needs to consider. If your audio from your video game console travels over the HDMI cable with the video then there is definitely going to be some audio lag. Basically there will be a split-second between when you strum the guitar and when you hear it over your TV. The audio lag pretty much makes the game unusable in my opinion so before you buy please check out this web page to see if your setup is compatible (Ubisoft also smartly includes this exact thing as a huge one-page sheet packed inside the box). Split seconds don't seem like a big deal, but when you're trying to play along with the music on the game a split second can be infuriating. I used an audio adapter for my XBOX 360 and output the audio to a separate speaker which worked great. Again, check out this page on the Rocksmith website before you buy to make sure your setup is compatible or that you can do something to make it compatible.

There's a lot more to Rocksmith that I'm leaving out - like fun mini-games that help you drill chords, notes and scales; and a very thorough step-by step lesson section with videos. The whole learning experience is very comprehensive and in my opinion it does a great job.

If you've got a child with a video game console and an electric guitar then it seems to me that this is something you should definitely consider. And for us Dads who always wanted to learn how to play the guitar (or get better beyond the three chords you learned in college) it's also very much recommended.

And it goes without saying, no one ever impressed a girl because he was great at Guitar Hero.

Rocksmith 2014 Edition is available for PC/Mac, XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 for around $79.99 with the cable included, and $59.99 without.

You can check out all the versions on here.