Mental remapping

I am certain that you’re not all terribly fascinated by a chronicle of my progress on Guitar Hero. However, it provides a certain window into the mind that I find interesting.

The Guitar Hero controller has five color-coded keys on the neck. The Easy level only uses three keys (green, red, yellow). The Medium level adds in the blue key. So far so simple – I have four fingers on my left hand. (Hope you do too.) So learning to play on Medium involves mentally assigning each finger its own color. Red key is always middle finger.

Moving from Easy to Medium was no problem. But now I’ve started playing on the Hard level, which adds in the fifth key, orange. Moving to Hard requires (for me) a total remapping of my brain. I have to be able to shift my whole hand one key to the right or left as demanded by any particular string of notes that hits orange. So when a red note is due, I might be hitting it with my middle finger OR my index finger.

The paradigm shift reminds me of home-row typing. Or of juggling – I can juggle three items, my favorite version involving a basketball, a volleyball and a ping-pong ball – but I have never been able to remap my brain to the right pattern for juggling four items.

I wonder if there is an analogy in chess improvement. Maybe the switch from concrete calculation to more abstract positional evaluation.


8 thoughts on “Mental remapping

  1. Hmmm… This “Guitar Hero” of which you speak sounds like nothing more than a slightly more sophisticated version of that “Simon” game [] from the 80s.

    I don’t get the appeal.

    Now, “Call of Duty”… there’s a game!



  2. Nobody takes a bullet to the head in Guitar Hero :)

    Actually it feeds the delusion that you’re a rocker. So it’s good for teenagers and arrested development cases.

  3. I watched my nieces and nepher play guitar hero, then I watched their mother (my sister) play. I decided I would not humiliate myself by trying. I have enough trouble with time pressure in chess.

  4. One of the paradigms in chess is realizing you have more than just a Queen (while I managed to avoid this step via a book, it seems to be common). Another is realizing there are people who are just as or more tactically aware than you. For YEARS, until playing tournament chess in college, I basically rolled over (almost) everyone by playing a decent opening and exploiting a blunder. Finding other serious chess players forced me to change my approach to the game.

    BTW, I have 5 fingers my left hand. Sorry to disappoint.

    @Globular: Yes, I’ve been following that incident with some interest. Vicary’s blog I’ve been following for a short time, but I missed all the USCL material.

    And wow, look, there’s a lot more comments now. It doesn’t look like they include any sympathy for your position.

  5. Donnie – Mutter mutter mutter… Literalists. Thumb goes on back of guitar neck, leaving you four non-thumb, non-opposable fingers. :) I get enough corrections on my imprecise language from my wife and daughter.

    Matt – My goodness! What happened to my even-tempered USATE teammate?

    Polly – Only play when nobody’s looking.

  6. Dunno. I lost it. Oh well, it looks like I’ve taken an appropriate on-line beating. Serves me right.

    I should have just played “Call of Duty” to get my aggressions out. :)


  7. My brain and fingers can’t even coordinate enough to get the easy level of Guitar Hero. I blame age. If it was like Simon and all you had to do was repeat a pattern, I’m your girl. However, you have to get the timing right–hit the button exactly when it crosses the line on the screen….I am invariably too slow.

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