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Behind the technology curve

On the timeline of video games, I'm still stuck in the stone age. Which is really a shame. I don't know where I went wrong.

For years, I prided myself in being just ahead of the technology curve. I grew up on Atari, then Sega video game systems. Later, I had the newest cell phone, the best car stereo and the coolest computer. You name it, it was mine. A co-worker even nicknamed me "Techno-boy."

But alas, at some point, I took an off-ramp on the technological highway. (Maybe it was when I actually had to start paying for these things.)

The last video game system I received - a Christmas gift from either my parents or my wife - was an original Sony PlayStation. For those feeling lost in the translation, think of it like this: While other folks are driving a fancy, modern machine, I'm tooling around in an old Chevy Cavalier. With the video system I have, vibrating controllers were all the rage. Nowadays, you can play golf against someone in Japan while downloading songs to play in Guitar Hero and chatting with your buddy down the block.

So far, I've been able to resist the call of the modern video game consoles.

But a buddy of mine has been infected by the Wii.

In many senses, the Nintendo Wii is like other modern systems: the graphics are great, the games are cool and the game system will do everything but clean your house. Unfortunately.

However, there's one thing the Wii does that others don't. It gets the players off the couch and makes them participate in the game, which - to me - defeats the entire purpose of video games. That's right, to play golf, you actually have to "swing" the controller. You make all the actions of bowling, baseball, even fishing, when you are playing the games.

To be honest, it is downright exhausting. Especially for a guy who spends the bulk of his life buried behind a computer.

But the spotlight shown on my lack of athletic prowess wasn't the worst part. Trust me, I know how uncoordinated and out-of-shape I am. My lack of musical acumen, however, was totally soul-crushing.

See, like most guys, I have grand visions of myself playing music. In front of people. Professionally. For money. Rock, country, classics. You know, the classic rock star dream.

Now, it obviously ain't happening. Ever.

But I didn't know it - really know it - until I played RockBand. The game lets you "play" instruments along with famous songs, much like karaoke using digital instruments. You get scored on how well you keep up with the rhythm and follow the song. Even on the easiest level - three chords on the guitar - I was terrible.

You know, the experts worry about the impact of video games on children's health and social skills. But what about the musical dreams of Everyman? You know, failed rock stars have feelings, too.

Web posted on Thursday, July 02, 2009

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