Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 08.19.09
Stanstead, Quebec


So you want to be a virtual rock 'n' roll star...

We've let a monster into our house. It's not under the bed or hiding in the closet. It's just sitting there, in the open, by the television, with wires like tentacles, waiting to reach out and suck you in.

We've bought... a PlayStation.

You have to understand that our family doesn't even have cable. We have rabbit ears on our television that pull in three channels, two of them French. I'm surprised my children haven't called Social Services.

They have, over the years, used their no-cable status as leverage to lobby for some kind of gaming system. But we held our ground.

Well, I did.

My wife, however, decided it would be a good idea to buy a PlayStation 2... for Father's Day.

Yes, I own the PlayStation.

Yeah, right.

My kids are on it all the time. "What, are you still on that thing?" I'll say. "Turn it off, get outside. Look, it's a beautiful summer... okay, it's raining again. But get off anyway."

My eldest daughter thinks it's terribly unfair that we have a PlayStation now that she's moved out, just like she thinks it's unfair that we've finally started going on fun vacations now that she has a full-time summer job. But she has more baby pictures than the others, so it all evens out.

As for my remaining kids, they're in gaming heaven. Right now they're into this snowboarding game, where the characters soar down a mountain, leap off perilous jumps, complete gravity-defying tricks on their boards, land on their heads and get up and do it again. I point out to the kids that none of the characters are wearing helmets, which probably explains why I'm no good at this game. Even my eight-year-old can beat me.

"It's okay, Dad," she says. "You're good at some things." There's nothing worse than being patronized by an 8-year-old.

Thankfully, I have... my guitar.

This is the game my wife had in mind for me when she bought the PlayStation: Guitar Hero, where I can live out my rock and roll fantasies playing guitar on the sofa in my boxer shorts while enjoying a beer. (Actually, that is pretty close to my rock and roll fantasy.)

If you haven't seen this game, you have a wireless guitar with coloured keys where the frets would be and a tab you click to strum. On screen, a sort of conveyor belt of coloured notes scrolls towards you and you have to finger and strum in time.

The scrolling notes are hard on the eyes. In fact, when you stop playing and look around you, everything gets all wavy and distorted. I haven't seen inanimate objects move like this since my college days.

The game is set up as a series of gigs, and you can't just quit in the middle of a gig, especially when you have to play a bunch of songs you don't know with names like "Transmission Remission" by Shovelful of Kidneys in order to play something familiar, say "Hollywood Nights" by Bob Seger. The problem is that "Hollywood Nights" is really, really hard. Who knew?

And don't even get me started on Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher." So you have to keep trying and trying until you get it and the game tells you, "You Rock!"

Next thing I know, two hours have gone by. My shoulders are stiff, my fingers are cramped, I've had two beers too many (which probably explains why I can't play "Hot for Teacher") and it's way past my bedtime. I know I'm going to pay for this tomorrow.

Maybe for my birthday I should ask my wife to buy me Barry Manilow Hero.