Real guitar heroes in the Guitar Hero era

By Henry Soong

Guitar Hero III made its debut in my room not too long ago. Consequently, the television and Nintendo Wii have not been turned off in over a fortnight.

As the motor on the Wii whirs desperately into its ump-hundredth hour of continuous play, I fear my roommates and their ever-multiplying cast of friends (whose names we did not even know prior to Guitar Hero’s arrival) have fallen to the cunning embrace of the game’s design.

The software developers at Harmonix Studios have managed to capture America’s youth culture with a game where players can live out their rock star daydreams by finger- mashing along with guitar legends like Jimi Hendrix. Colored “notes” on the television correspond to the buttons on a nifty plastic Gibson guitar replica, and players mash down the buttons on the guitar’s frets while “strumming” (pushing a lever) as notes descend on a conveyor belt on the TV screen. Bonus points if you use the guitar’s whammy bar.

Outside the game’s mechanics, Guitar Hero has an impressive array of classic and modern rock songs for players to master, and it has a versus mode where players can customize their personal rock star character before competing for rock glory.

But somewhere into the mind-boggling hours of play, the spectacle of the game disappeared as I wondered whether Guitar Hero is really just a talentless musician’s refuge. The architects of the game must have guessed, too, that the substantial American population without musical talent would be willing to settle for a simulated experience. The game smacks of early 2000s phenomenon “Dance Dance Revolution,” and its lesser cousin “Donkey Konga,” where players pound furiously on toy conga drums.

My roommates didn’t share in any of my revelations, however, and they continued to play with satisfaction. The seriousness of the situation became clear to me on Thursday evening when my generally “thirsty” friends didn’t even consider leaving the dormitory.

I danced and pranced before the television trying to free them of their hypnosis, but to no avail. They were in too deep. Fearing for my own sanity, I fled the scene, desperate to escape their dreadful cover of Metallica’s “One.”

Rushing into the elevator, I nearly trampled a group of drunken partiers who had set up camp. I caught myself in time and managed not to fall over their bodies.

Two girls giggled with tipsy delight as a third played piano on the elevator buttons. Meanwhile, a boy who was in the middle of telling a musical story accompanied himself by strumming (real strumming this time) on his acoustic guitar. In their drunken revelry, they sang and invited me to take a seat with them.

Tired of my Guitar Hero- addicted roommates, I accepted and rode the elevator up and down our building. However inebriated the fellow with the guitar was, his skill as a musician was superb. Matching the nonsense of his sing-song story about a three-eyed pirate lost in Las Vegas, this guitar fellow matched, line for line, a catchy tune on his guitar. The third girl continued her virtuoso performance on the elevator keyboard while the story progressed, propelling our elevator up and down the shaft as confused residents opted not to share the crowded cart with us.

The guitar fellow’s raspy voice captivated the giggling gaggle’s attention; they hung onto his every word – even the part where Marty (for that was the pirate’s name) was arrested for public urination at the Bellagio fountains. When the story ended, they chanted, “Bravo! Bravo!” and the guitar fellow gladly obliged with more adventures of Marty the three-eyed pirate.

When an resident advisor eventually found our merry little group sitting in the elevator, he told us to break it up and get back to our rooms. The guitar fellow and his elevator-mates bade farewell to each other, hardly noticing my departure.

And as I strolled back to my room, humming the pirate tune, it occurred to me that my roommates are not guitar heroes. No, their brand of conveyor belt rock is not what the real guitar heroes of the world subscribe to. Rather, real guitar heroes are found on Thursday nights striking up wild melodies in otherwise derelict elevators, singing to their hearts’ content.

Henry is a freshman in business who’s petitioning for real guitar heroes to be added to the endangered species list. Working together, we CAN save them!