Gatehouse – About 15 years ago, Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando opened a “Star Wars”-themed ride entitled “Star Tours,” in which you simulate flying through the “Star Wars” universe — crashing through comets, running into a Star Destroyer, jumping into hyperspace, that sort of thing. The ride culminates with your fake-piloting your ship into the Death Star trench, effectively dropping you in the climactic battle scene in the original “Star Wars,” and, if you were me, letting you live out what was at the time The Single Biggest Goal I Ever Had In My Life.
Let me ask you this — have you ever cried tears of joy, of pure, unspoilt, childlike joy? Because I have, and I make no apologies, no matter how much it weirded out the people in the gift shop.
Back then, the Second Biggest Goal I Ever Had In My Life was to play guitar in Guns N’ Roses, which is actually a pretty easy thing to do these days, or as long as they’re letting in schmoes with names like Bumblefoot. Also, by “back then” I mean “from 1991 until right now, except for a brief six-month period in 1993 when I got way into Tesla for some reason.” (It goes without saying that I have made it pretty far through life with some fairly underwhelming goals. I’ve got a Life Coach helping me work on that, but he mostly sits around reading O magazine while making me do like three consecutive hours of yoga.)
Anyway, I am happy to announce today that I have successfully completed Life Goal No. 2, thanks to “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock,” which is like a karaoke game for guitar nerds and something I played recently on a friend’s Wii, a video game system that simulates engaging in actual physical activity, except it’s inside and you can do it while eating Cheetos. For any video game novices out there (the reigning IT dork here calls them “nOOBs,” although I think he’s drinking), the Wii is the one with the controller that you wield in your hand like a baseball bat, or a fishing rod, or a sword, or a solid weapon with which you can hypothetically, dramatically punch a hole in a old family picture. Wii is full of sports for people who fear the outdoors: There is Wii baseball, Wii tennis, Wii boxing, Wii bowling. Actually, I think I injured my shoulder while Wii bowling, which is not something I’m real excited to bring up to my doctor. Or my Life Coach.
I should note here that it’s hard to determine which activity I am less skilled at: modern video games or looking cool while playing guitar. Several years ago I lost a humiliatingly one-sided round of “Mortal Kombat” to my cousin, who, to his credit, was pretty gracious in victory for a 5-year-old. I can, I suppose, play a little real-world guitar, as long as I’m playing a song that has precisely two chords in it and a 12-second break between them for Thinking Time. Yeah, I could have taken guitar lessons as a kid, chose instead to watch “Star Wars” over and over and over again. I stand by my decision.
Anyway, “Guitar Hero” graciously furnishes its own guitar, which is completely logical but still sort of stunned me, and you put this guitar on and press buttons while “strumming.” There is also a whammy bar. And let me tell you this — the first time you do this, it’s a little like trying to solve one of those Cracker Barrel twisted-nail puzzles that HAVE NO SOLUTION despite what the waitresses kept trying to tell you over your extremely loud sobbing.
But after a while, something clicks, and your fingers go where they’re supposed to go, and you figure what all these people yelling at you about “strumming” are talking about, and you lock eyes with your “Guitar Hero” character, who resembles a jagged, emaciated Iggy Pop with the hair of Hannah Montana, and you become a walking, breathing, stupid-looking conduit of Energy from Rock N’ Roll Heaven, or at least as close of an approximation as you can hope for when you’re playing a cheeseball Poison song and someone in the background is on the phone with their mom. It is, in a word, totally frickin’ awesome, and I know that’s three words but I don’t care, because I just played “Welcome to the Jungle” this week, and the Force was with me, too.