Rocktastic: How Guitar Hero Brought Stardom to the Masses

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If
you’d been living in the woods for the last 10 years and needed
a quick pop cultural primer to bring you up to date, you could do
worse than watch the new video by Eminem, for his single "We
Made You". There’s Sarah Palin, enjoying the attentions of
the Village People’s Alaskan chapter. There’s the rapper dressed
as Mr Spock, in anticipation of this summer’s blockbuster Star Trek
remake. There’s Lindsay Lohan and Sam Ronson. There’s Amy Winehouse.

And between
the celebrity-based barbs there’s Eminem, as himself, prancing back
and forth on what appears to be a giant guitar fretboard, surrounded
by brightly coloured dots. This, in case you really have been away
for a while, is what Guitar Hero looks like.

Guitar Hero
combines two favourite activities of the frustrated rock star: karaoke
and air guitar. It contains the live performance aspect that has
made singing off-key cover versions in public so popular with amateurs,
while cutting out the caterwauling that makes karaoke so disagreeable.
It’s simple: plug in your games console, strap on the accompanying
plastic axe and strum away, hitting the five coloured plastic keys
in time with those little dots on the screen, to produce the chords
for a not-inconsiderable catalogue of classic rock tunes, from AC/DC
to ZZ Top.

The history
of gaming begins with the solitary pleasures of Pac Man and Donkey
Kong. Multiplayer games, and later the internet, allowed for a shared
experience of sorts. But only now, with the advent of consoles such
as the Nintendo Wii, and titles like Guitar Hero, has gaming truly
become a social activity – much like gathering round the old
Joanna for a rendition of "Roll Out the Barrel", or sitting
the family down for the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special.

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