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Entries in XBOX 360 (12)


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.


XBOX One $500? Indefensible.

For the record, I'm an XBOX guy and have been since 2004. And although the XBOX 360 is far from perfect (red ring of death anyone?), I've always considered it better than the Playstation 3.

But the new XBOX One always has to be connected to the Internet. The Kinect camera is always on, knows when you're in the room and is connecting itself back to a company that the NSA is fond of data mining. It's full of television/living room functionality that gamers never asked for and "regular" people don't understand.

And it's $100 more than the Playstation 4. How can I tell anyone with a straight face that they should go with XBOX over Playstation?

Oh yeah. And there's this.


Console Innovation Is Past Due

The AP posted this story today outlining the state of the video game industry - and from looking at the list things aren't going so well. Company after company, from EA to Microsoft to Nintendo to Sony, are showing decreased revenues and/or losses from core video game products and services.

I'm far from a financial or industry expert, but it seems to me that the industry (particularly the console gaming industry) has been milking the cash cows of the current platforms for far too long and it's starting to catch up with them. The Wii, PS3 and XBOX 360 are very old by video game standards and the games themselves are starting be hamstrung by their aging technology. And most people who were ever going to buy one of these consoles has probably already done so - new products like the XBOX 360 Kinect notwithstanding.

But the software companies can't lay all the blame on the consoles either. I've gone on at length about my disappointments with EA, but they aren't the only company dropping the ball. Take-Two Interactive pushed back the release of BioShock Infinite from October 2012 to the end of February 2013 and took a 6% hit in stock price. And Activision Blizzard Inc. is showing lower revenue for their games as well - which isn't surprising considering their yearly Call of Duty releases are practically indistinguishable from each other.

Add all of this to the fact that games on platforms like the new iPad are increasingly more beautiful and engaging, and the console/traditional video game industry looks like it's in trouble. I understand why in a down-economy companies like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo decided to stick with the current consoles and only make iterative improvements. But if they want to succeed in the future, the time to come up with some real innovation is now.


Video Games at CES 2012: The Giant Underwhelm

CES 2012 - the Consumer Electronics Showcase - has come and gone. And while the show is now (for the most part) not about new product announcements or big news anymore, I was still very interested to see what video game related stuff there might be. I wasn't expecting Microsoft to announce the next generation gaming console or for Sony to announce some major innovation with the PS3, but I was hoping for something more than what was being shown. Anything related to console gaming seemed like an afterthought, and the only cool thing I saw gaming-wise had to do with Apple's iOS (iPhones, iPod Touch and iPads). Which isn't really surprising I suppose.

On the Microsoft show floor there was an XBOX section (pictured above) with a couple of product marketers and ten games being shown off. There was also a few Kinect booths showing off some Kinect stuff, but it really wasn't anything that you couldn't experience by going to your local Best Buy and trying out Kinect or a first person shooter there. Many of the games (if not all of them) have been out for a while now, and while I suppose Gears of War 3 or Batman Arkham City does show off the best of what the 360 can do, it would have been (and was) much more impressive in 2009.

At Sony it was much of the same (shown below), with only five games on display for the PS3 and not much else. It definitely feels like the current generation of consoles are at the end of their product cycle, and while Sony's public statements contradict that (at least for the PS3) it's hard to get excited about the future of the current generation of consoles.

The one cool gaming related thing I saw this year at CES (cool enough at least to stop and talk to the exhibitor about) was the iCade Mobile from Ion Audio. It's a simple game controller for an iPhone or iPod Touch that works with up to 100 games currently (though more will be added). It kind of turns your iPod Touch into the form factor of PSP, and for kids who play a lot of games on their (or their parents) iOS device I can see how it might be fun to have. Check out my post about it at Modern Day Dad.

If CES 2012 is any indication, it looks like video gamers are going to have to be content with their current consoles and devices for the time being. Then again, Microsoft is kind of being cagey about their future announcements and could (in theory) make a big splash at E3 in June, which would turn a bleak future in to something pretty exciting. Here's hoping that happens.


$1.74 Billion Spent On Video Game Content? That's a Lot of Microsoft Points.

Image via DICE Designer @ChristinaCoffin

Someone once said that the guy that invented money was smart, but the guy that invented the poker chip was a genius. I suppose the same could be said for Microsoft Points, Facebook Credits, Wii Points and all the rest because according to a recent report, in Q2 2011 consumers spent more on video game content than they did buying physical video and PC game software. "Content" seems to be defined as anything except physical games, including in-game content, game downloads (including mobile games like on on your iPhone), game rentals and everything else.

To me it's a staggering number, and indicative of where the industry is headed. A few years ago I don't even think I'd heard of the term "DLC," but now if I love a game I won't think twice about spending 1,200 Microsoft Points on new maps. And iPhone and iPad games? What's a couple of bucks if I can get a few good hours out of it (or, more importantly, if it will distract my kids for 15 minutes).

"It adds up" is apparently an understatement.

Consumers spent additional $1.74 billion on video game content in Q2 []