Learning Guitar is Like Playing a Video Game

I emerged victorious from my ‘man-cave,’ the extra room in the house that I have claimed as mine. It is where I spend many hours, most hours actually when at home.  There are the countless hours on the computer, or tossing around some dumbbells (well, not recently, but they are there should I choose to) my bags upon bags of photography gear (seriously, I actually have three bags, and a little one, all full of gear,)  my corner chair and area for mediation or reading, and more recently, my newly acquired guitar and the accompanying exercise ball that doubles as my strumming seat. It is my haven room, my little area to chillax and enjoy my off-duty life. And on this day, I was victorious, having just completed almost an hour of practice on the guitar.

Pac Man vs Guitar
Pac Man vs. Guitar              Learning to play guitar is like playing a video game

I had spent the better part of the hour trying to pluck Beethoven’s Ode to Joy on three of the six guitar strings. Actually, I had been practicing, not the entire song, but rather eight bars, which was really only four, just repeated. However, I had persevered and started over and over again, getting a little farther with each try into the song, further and further, as each new attempt had my fingers more swiftly and adeptly hitting the notes correctly and without hesitation. And then voila! It happened and it was perfect. So, figuring I should end on a high note (pun intended) I put down the guitar, feeling quite proud of my accomplishment.

I love video games. I mean LOVE. I mean I can’t play one like ‘normal’ people, or how I assume others play these games. You see, I become fixated, obsessive and some might even say addicted, to the point where I don’t eat, bathe or attend to any responsibilities or duties, like work. Yes, if I get into a video game, I will call in sick, day after day, until I finally complete the game. I MUST conquer! Does anyone remember when Myst first came out? It was a puzzle game set in ethereal other worlds with a quest one embarked upon, solving puzzles along the way to go to the next level. I LOVED the game. My friend Marg was doing it and had been competing with others on-line. People were playing as ‘normal’ people do I guess, doing a challenge or maybe two a day. It was taking  most roughly three weeks to a month to complete. Yeah, well I conquered that one in three days! Then there were the  sequels and sister games Riven and Exile, and their sequels, all completed in almost as astonishingly quick times. But I also liked single shooter games and I played Wolfenstein, and I became the main character in many of Tom Clancy’s video games, like Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six. These took a little more time because they had these big bosses you had to overcome. It took me hours of looking for the codes on-line to by-pass these wars! Yes, I cheated. I hated the big battles and had no patience for them. Then came the Tomb Raider series of which the movie genre is named and taken from. I loved being Laura and trying to solve puzzles while trying to stay alive and ahead of the bad guys. Again, I would get caught up and forget to eat! But the last of a long series of adventures, was the addition of Abe’s’ OddWorld, which was exactly as the name implies, an odd world. It was comprised of a world of cute little creatures just trying to survive while being honed as food for another creature. Some say it was crafted after the beef industry in our world.  Here there were puzzles, but rather than just unlocking them, I had to do a series of movements to get it just right, and then, I could move on.

It was Abe’s OddWorld were Sue and I first started playing video games together. You see, I couldn’t always get the sequence down to complete the puzzle, so we would take turns back and forth, until one of us would land the puzzle. We did this for this game and it’s sequels and sister games. I would repeat again and again the sequence, and each time I failed, I’d start over again after Sue’s turn, and I would get a little further in the sequence. I was training my finger, and mostly my thumb, in the timing, the rhythm and the sequence of the moves. And over and over again, they would become more fluent, proficient and closer to the end goal, until that last final run, the movements would all be executed in perfect order and timing and the puzzle completed with the next level awaiting. Have a smoke in victory before continuing, and eat later. Much later.

So as I emerged from my cave, I said to Sue “Learning guitar is like playing a video game.” I caught her off- guard and she almost spit out her coffee. She is very proficient in guitar and so she looked inquisitively at me, wondering where I was going with this. I explained to her that in trying to learn the song on the guitar, I was teaching my fingers where to go, what the timing and rhythm were by repeating over and over again and again until it becomes easy and almost second nature. Just like when I was training my reflexes for the sequence of movements and rhythm and timing to complete a puzzle in a video game. So, I said to her, learning to play guitar is just like playing a video game. She just shook her head at me as she walked away muttering something about I’m a better video gamer than a musician under her breathe.

What was neat about this new discovery, was not just the training through repetition, but also the drive to conquer what I was learning, just like I used to want to conquer the video games. I kept at it during the lesson, again and again and again because the overwhelming desire to CONQUER those eight bars was extremely strong. It wasn’t like before, where I wouldn’t eat, would just smoke and never leave the couch (hence I had to give up video games forever after Abe!) but rather drove me through the lesson until I had reached perfection. And I believe that is a win-win situation for me when it comes to playing the guitar. Take a lesson, like one puzzle, and just go at it until the sequence, timing and rhythm are perfect. Then put it down until the next lesson. Problem is, I don’t think I can conquer and finish learning this instrument in three days like a game! However, in this next hour, I will succeed and train myself to execute it precisely and perfectly. I never knew my days of video gaming would lead to something productive, like training me to learn a musical instrument. So parents, the next time you yell at your youngin to get off that game, you might be denying the future Beethoven in him or her. Let them find the notes and just play lol!

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