When Guitar Hero came out there were knee-jerk complaints from musicians and generally cranky people that the game wasn't the same as actually playing an instrument (duh) and that the pissy teenagers with too much time on their hands who might eventually become musicians were going to use up all their rage and/or boredom on Guitar Hero instead of obsessively practicing scales or writing teen-angst punk or whatever.
Of course, wasting insane, even sickening amounts of time on video games is at least a generation-old tradition. And only the most imaginative (or delusional) advocates for Guitar Hero think that it's meaningfully comparable to actually playing guitar—anecdotal evidence suggests that the Guitar Hero explosion has been quite good to guitar teachers, who've seen a bunch of kids looking to transition to the real thing. (This includes the guitar teacher on my block, who regularly hosts students mangling the fuck out of blues scales in really fascinating and original ways. It's like living down the street from Captain Beefheart sometimes.)
But then there's stuff like this:
That's the "officially licensed Fender™ Telecaster™ Players Edition™" Rock Band controller from a gaming peripherals company called Mad Catz. It features extra-fast fret buttons, a reproduction Bigsby whammy bar, and "custom road worn distressed finish and strap," and it retails for $110. It's also thrown me in with the grumps.
I know that people are allowed to spend their money on whatever they want, and gamers have a long history of buying ridiculously expensive controllers with outrageous features. But this thing blurs the line between the kind of fantasy that makes games fun and the kind that's sort of depressing. There's more dignity to bashing out "Crazy Train" on a dinky plastic fake guitar than a full-scale replica Tele with a faux-distressed paint job because at least with the dinky plastic controller you don't appear to be deluding yourself into thinking you're actually playing "Crazy Train" to an arena full of screaming fans.
But the worst part is that for $110 you can have an actual guitar. Not a very good one, but you'd be surprised at what a hundo can get you. By buying the Mad Catz Tele you're basically choosing laziness. If you play enough Guitar Hero or Rock Band that you feel like a $110 Fender replica controller is for you, you've probably developed enough coordination and rhythm to work out "Wild Thing." Buy something with strings on it.