Why I Regret Not Playing More Video Games
Regret is something you feel more of when you get older. Asking yourself why you acted the way you did or said things you wish you could take back. Each thought can weigh on you if you dwell on it too much. There was a time when I filled my head with past decisions and dwelled on them constantly. I soon realized that by doing this I was taking away from my future. After all the past is the past and you while you can’t change that, you can change the future. With that said, there is one regret I dwell on. I never stuck with playing the piano growing up. I tried a lot of different instruments, from the cello to snare drums, from the harmonica to the guitar, but never stuck with any of those as long as I did the piano.
I started playing the piano when about six or seven years old. Not by choice but my parents wanted me to take up an instrument. A lot of kids in my neighborhood were attempting to play musical instruments and this was one way to help kids unlock their potential. With that said a lot of kids in my neighborhood also wanted to go outside or play video games instead of practicing for an hour a day. It was dreadful to sit still for an hour and practice scales or “songs.” I say songs in the loose sense, these weren’t songs that you knew or sung along to, these were short rhymes or poems set to an easy to play melody. Definitely not something that would be even considered to be in the top 40 at the time.
I think my parents realized that I wasn’t engaged, but still wanted me to play a musical instrument. After all, that’s what good parents do, they encourage their kids to learn and try new things to make us better human beings. That’s when they bought me the Miracle Piano Teaching System for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This was before music games like Guitar Hero took the gaming industry by storm. The Miracle Piano Teaching System was a MIDI keyboard that hooked up to your video game system and taught you how to play through a series of mini games and lessons.
As a kid I thought it was amazing. I was playing a video game that counted as practice. It felt that I was cheating the system. The keys pressed on the keyboard had a direct effect on if I passed or failed the lesson. Feedback would be instantaneous by a graphic on the screen and a scratching noise so you’d know if you played the wrong note. Very similar to how Guitar Hero and Rock Band’s sound notification works. Even the mini games were fun, from shoot ducks to helping a robot cross a bridge by playing the correct note. You were practicing, but you didn’t realize it. You were reading notes and playing songs with a full midi backup band. It was very impressive at the time.
Looking back at how the game worked, it was a great example of gamification. What is even stranger is that is that it did a better job than what Rock Band 3 tried to do with their piano peripheral. Harmonix touted that Rock Band 3 could teach you how to play the piano, but there were some issues in it design that prevented that. One was that the piano provided with Rock Band 3 wasn’t very good. The keys had no spring to them and ended up being very mushy. This made it difficult to play a fast song, which was very common on the harder difficulty levels, especially when you’re trying to play the same notes repeatedly. The next was the way the game presented music to the player. By design, Rock Band scrolls notes down to the player. At higher difficulty levels, the notes would move faster to simulate real music time. Sounds fine except you don’t actually learn the notes or how to read music, playing a song just came down to muscle memory. Needless to say, I was disappointed in the final product’s teaching mode.
In my mind a good teacher is what it comes down to. One of the best music teachers I had was also my first. This could explain why I didn’t want to continue playing anything longer than 6 months after my long piano run. While I was in first grade at the time, she actually listened to what I wanted to play. I wanted to play Lullaby on Broadway all because I heard it on the television show Taxi. She was able to find a simpler version for me and I played it at my first and only recital. Looking back my rhythm was off on most of it, but it didn’t matter, I was happy playing it. I’m glad this teacher listened to me and took the time to find a piece of music I enjoyed. It really encouraged me to practice more at that time.
While I had fun playing with my other teacher, the Miracle Piano, I wish I could say I stuck with it over time and learned how to play the piano. I tried hooking it up to my LCD television recently and realized I couldn’t play it. There was a delay between the screen and hitting the notes. Maybe one day I’ll try to learn again, but until I have more free time and room, there will be that one regret in the back of my mind.
Jeff Kovacich writes at OctopusHustle.com about life and video games. He also is the author of the children’s book titled, The Adventures of Captain Crocodile and Hyper Hyena.