I am in band, and I'm sorry about that—but I am terrible at guitar. I've played various instruments in my life, but my current genre requires guitar playing, and I'm just not very good at. I've tried to take lessons, but this has resulted, in our wonderful city, with a fellow named Kyle or Randy trying really hard to relate to me in a weird contrived situation that is somehow worse for me than the 10 years of violin lessons from an old woman who did all she could to not relate to me. I guess what I'm saying is, I hate people. Which is why I LOVE Rocksmith 2014.

ROCKSMITH: This looks boring, but its actually kind of a big deal
  • ROCKSMITH This looks boring, but it's actually kind of a big deal!

In the world of guitar videogames of my generation—First there was Guitar Hero. Then came Rock Band. And we all got really good at playing fake instruments, and that one friends of yours got CRAZY good at playing fake guitar, and still couldn't play a real guitar for his life. And that's okay, 'cause actually playing an instrument, and playing a videogame about playing an instrument are two different things. But then Rocksmith happened. Rocksmith is a videogame, a lot like Guitar Hero, except it's played with a real electric guitar or bass as a controller, connected to a Mac, PC, Xbox, or PlayStation via a special cable. When the first Rocksmith game was released in 2011, it was an awesome step—but that game was more great for the idea of using a guitar as a controller than for actually teaching you how to play a guitar. It was a bit awkward and doesn't translate skills that well, and it never got nearly as popular as Rock Band (perhaps because buying a real electric guitar is more expensive than even those fancy limited-edition rock band controllers.)

Rocksmith 2014 fixes a lot of the problems of the previous game, and I love it. Like Rock Band, there's a library of classic rock and modern rock and in-between rock hits. The game gets gradually harder through a smart-progression system that figures out what you need more help with. And the control system, while it doesn't super easily translate into reading music or tabs, builds up all the speed and motor skills that you actually need to play a guitar or bass—just like guitar lessons, but with no humans involved.

My favorite thing about Rocksmith 2014 is the "Guitarcade" (pun!) in which you can play a series of games that build guitar skills: power chords, scales (for those sweet rock solos), volume, speed and more. It feels so EXACTLY like a videogame: you get frustrated, you die a bunch, you have to start over—but you're building skills in playing guitar which, for me at least, is a good use of time.

ROCKSMITH: Kill zombies with your sweet riffs!
  • ROCKSMITH Kill zombies with your sweet riffs!

If you're looking for a gift for your niece/nephew/friend who's about to graduate from college and have a whole lot of unemployed time on their hands, and you want them to get trained in a really terrible career choice, I recommend Rocksmith 2014. And good news for those who might miss the charm of in-person guitar lessons: Just to make it realistic, perhaps, the narration voice in Rocksmith is a bro-y dude who is probably named Kyle.