The crowd is booing me. I just stood onstage with a guitar and totally butchered the Police's "Message in a Bottle." And yet, my boss in "Guitar Hero II" is telling me, "You Rock!" He's wrong. I anti-rocked that song. That song should slap me in the face.
I don't mind the booing, though, because I played enough correct notes -- 81 percent -- so now I can progress to the next song. After all, the ostensible mission of "Guitar Hero II" is to work your way through 60-plus songs.
Then again, the point of "Guitar Hero II" isn't just to finish missions. The point is to have fun, to hold a plastic guitar, and press five buttons on its fret when the TV screen tells you to.
That way, you can pretend to be a bona fide rock star. If you hit the right buttons at the right time, you hear the guitar parts of songs. If you don't, you hear wrong notes. Simple idea. Hard to execute.
I'm being mildly disingenuous about my skills. "Message in a Bottle" is the only song I have messed up so far, because I played violin through early college, and compared to that, a toy guitar is easy-peasy.
One of the great things about "Guitar Hero II" is it gives gamers -- especially if they're competing against each other on the couch -- the chance to see firsthand how different bands write such dissimilar guitar leads and rhythms.
You truly have to switch gears mentally to strum along to the disparate styles of traditional rock (Thin Lizzy's "Bad Reputation"); punk (Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized"); metal (Anthrax's "Madhouse"); psychobilly (the Reverend Horton Heat's "Psychobilly Freakout"); surf rock (Dick Dale's "Misirlou"); and so on.
My favorite is Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box." You don't hear the late Kurt Cobain's voice. All these songs sound like the originals, but other people sung the parts.
I'm particularly thrilled about the inclusion of tunes by Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots, because some alternative-rock fans have been writing nasty things about how the Nirvana estate is licensing songs into games. They think Nirvana's too musically pure to be for sale.
Nirvana's "Breed" showed up on "Major League Baseball 2K7." Deadspin.com then ran this headline: "We're Still Cheesed About Nirvana On That Baseball Video Game."
"We wonder how the music will be used," one of the site's writers groused. "If it's (Derek) Jeter's batting entrance music, we're going to throw the controller against the wall."
The racer "MotorStorm" also spins Nirvana's "Breed," plus the Reverend Horton Heat's "Big Red Rocket of Love." And racing game "Burnout Dominator" pumps other good alt tunes, from Alice in Chains' "Would" to Jane's Addiction's "Stop!"
This is what I want to say to fellow alt fans: Nirvana is not heard in "Burnout Dominator," but Avril Lavigne is. Do you really want gamers being indoctrinated to her instead of Nirvana?
For that matter, alt fans, wouldn't you rather hear Nirvana than most other bands while gaming? If not, I'd like to send that booing crowd from "Guitar Hero II" to pester your Web site.
("Guitar Hero II" with guitar bundle retails for $80 for PS 2, $90 for Xbox 360 -- Plays fun, especially during competitions against other gamers. Looks good. Easy to very difficult. Rated "T" for lyrics. Four stars out of four.)