Guitar Bleary


Josh Homme can kiss my ass.

Guitar Hero is an unusual game in many respects, as has been widely discussed here and elsewhere over the past year or so (and will be even more widely discussed in the weeks ahead). My good friend (and Escapist News Room contributor) Sean Sands wrote a nice piece last week over at GWJ about his recent trials with the game. Our contributing editor, J.R. Sutich will be sharing his own Guitar Hero story in this week’s “Hands on Gaming” issue of The Escapist and there are even more to follow. The news has even been filled up with stories about the game these pasty few weeks, some of it good, some of it bad.

The highly-anticipated sequel (the first of many) is due out in stores this November, and rather than diminish demand for the original, the anticipation has led gamers like me to dust off our still-warm controllers to hone our skills for the shredding to come. I haven’t done this since the release of Halo 2, and I can barely recall another game with as devoted a following.

And that’s exactly what makes the game unique, in my mind. It’s not that people can’t stop writing about it (there are plenty of games that people can’t stop writing about – hello Eve), it’s that people can’t stop playing it.

Including me.

Games usually have a half-life in my house numbering in days, not weeks. I have no patience, see (as I recently pointed out to an old friend “I have no time for it”), and once a game starts to annoy me, it’s gone. Not so with Guitar Hero. When I hit a chord I can’t play, or a combo that’s slightly beyond the reach of my clumsy left hand, I try again. And again. And again.

Over the past two weeks I’ve renewed my assault on the medium-level career songs, attempting to ace each, earning the coveted five-star review. I’ve been able to slay most songs after three or four tries, gaining a new understanding and appreciation of the strategy and skill required to truly master the game. My hand feels loose, and capable and fingers hit frets with no hesitation, no error. In the past few days I have become, in other words, a guitar (Hero) god.

Of the 30 songs in the playlist, 29 are now appended with the five-star emblem. That’s 29 minor accomplishments in The History of Russ, each requiring an almost unheard of level of concentration and resolve on my part. Audioslave’s “Cochise” took some doing, but I finally mastered it. Stevie Ray Vaughn was no match for my fret-finding prowess. Even Hendrix and Clapton fell before the might of my tiny, plastic guitar. Yet “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age again and again has proven to be my bane. And yes, Josh Homme, it’s your fault.

Josh is the insanely-talented guitarist of QOTSA, and I have it on good authority that he’s got it in for me. Why else would that song be so goddamn hard? A rhythm section of alternating chords? A solo that would make even Jimmy Page a little nervous? Who is this guy? And why does he hate me?

Stories like this are supposed to end with a triumphant resolution: The hero overcoming all odds to best his rival. Fred Savage wins the competition with his Power Glove, Rudy makes the team and The Karate Kid finally nails that Swan technique to beat the crap out of the smarmy blonde guy. This rule is not in any book, it’s just one of those things us writerly types know. But it’s one rule I’m going to have break today. I have not beaten that stupid song yet. Ralph Macchio I am not.

I’ve attempted that song over three dozen times now, never once scoring higher than four stars. I’ve managed to bring in boatloads of points, but the damn combos elude me, keeping my percentage of successfully-struck notes below the magic marker.

That’s why last night, when my good friend Insomnia came calling, instead of sucking down a little warm milk and setting up camp near the sheep fence like usual, I tried the one thing I knew might give me peace: I turned on the PS2 and picked up my guitar. And failed.


It was a long time before I nodded off last night. As a result, I’m a touch more bleary than usual for a Monday, but this is of little consequence. We have a magazine to publish, I have various duties to perform and one of our writers has gone AWOL. But these things do not matter. I have one white whale on my mind, and its name is Josh Homme.

I am coming for you, Josh. With my last breath I spit at thee. From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee. I am coming. I am coming as soon as the boss pulls that birdie’s tail. I am coming. On a pale horse. To kill you.

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