Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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It’s All About Me: Gonna Keep on Rockin’, Someday Gonna Make it To the Top

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 1, 2007

Close enough

As I’ve often talked about elsewhere, few revelations in my life were as great as that of my first experience with Guitar Hero. The two days I spent indoctrinating myself into the game’s world were unbelievably exhilerating, it was probably the most in love with music I had been since I first discovered Led Zeppelin. Then I bought the game (and system), and for the next few months (leading up to the release of Guitar Hero II), I had a love affair with the game rivaled by few romances of our times. But like all torrid trysts, the passion eventually cooled–no matter how great the songs in the games were, there are only so many times you can play “Carry on Wayward Son” and still find it new and exciting. Since I got back from winter break, I can count the number of times I’d played the game on one hand.

Still, when I saw an announcement for a GHII tournament being held somewhere near campus, I couldn’t resist–there are only about five or six things in this world that I would consider myself skilled at, and Guitar Hero is one of them. I’m not prodigious or anything, but I can definitely hold my own, and at the NYU “Rhythmic Video Games Club” (I think that’s what they’re calling themselves these days) I’m probably the best at it, even though everyone there is a much bigger gamer than I am. So I hoped for a crowd consisting mostly of fratboys who never cared enough to get past “Sweet Child of Mine” on Hard, and I signed up for the tournament.

Almost immediately after entering, I ascertained that I definitely was not going to win this tournament. There were several screens already set up with GHII for practicing before the tourney started, and I witnessed at least one or two players who I would have deemed “sick” and at least one or two other players who I would’ve called “utterly insane.” I am neither sick nor insane, but rather just unhealthy at the very best, so I knew the best I could hope for was getting advantageous matchups and somehow conning my way into 3rd place (which would’ve been enough for a $20 Best Buy gift certificate and one free week at the VG club the tourney was being hosted at, which would mean I could sample the XBox version of GHII with eight new songs, including Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom” and Deep Purple’s “Hush,” for free).

Unfortunately, not quite. I won my first two matches–the former by just a hair–but I lost the third in a heartbreaker (I got 450k on a tiebreaker bonus song, the guy beat me with 451k). Luckily, it was a double elimination tournament–and in retrospect, I wish all tournaments had the time and space for a double elimination format, because it really helps counter balance the Shit Happens factor–so I got another shot at it. I beat the first guy in the loser’s bracket–the same guy who I beat by a couple thousand in the first round–but the next guy (one of the two “utterly insane”s) trounced me, landing me squarely in 4th, one place out of the money. I did win my first game against him, though, and that was all I could really have hoped for (thank you, “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart”).

Still, even though it ended in defeat, it was the first time since the week I had started playing that I really felt excited by Guitar Hero again. When you’re playing against people of a skill level equal to or above you, every note counts, and especially with pride and actual prize money at stake, it’s an unbelievably thrilling tension that was totally absent from the weeks I spent playing co-op mode with my friends over the winter. It reminded me of sitting down to play at Best Buy back in September–it felt like the first time.

Three months until Guitar Hero: 80s Edition. But more on that later.

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