Tim Walker: 'In Guitar Hero, a virtual Kurt Cobain can appear on stage with Bon Jovi'

The Couch Surfer : I’m starting to perfect some classic rock-star moves, such as the Springsteen Air-Punch

Share
Related Topics

Where have Fleetwood Mac been all my life? Or, more precisely, where has the guitar solo at the end of "Go Your Own Way" been all my life?

Since I got my hands on a copy of Guitar Hero: World Tour, I must've tapped it out on my undersized plastic axe a good 100 times or so. I'm now sufficiently competent (on the "medium" difficulty mode, at least) to start perfecting some rock-star moves, such as the "Springsteen Air-Punch" or the "Wilko Johnson Machine Gun".

You might consider rocking out to Fleetwood Mac a guilty pleasure but, guilt-wise, it's nothing compared to one feature of Guitar Hero 5, which is due for release later this week. Like many an axeman before him (Slash, Billy Corgan, Ted Nugent, the list goes on ... ), Kurt Cobain's digital likeness has been incorporated into the gameplay, to render Nirvana's signature grunge anthem "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which will doubtless become a treasured addition to the Guitar Hero playlist.

Cobain is not the first dead guy to be featured in the game. More than once have I taken up my faux instrument and picked through "Purple Haze" in time with Jimi Hendrix's re-animated form. Guitar Hero 5's biggest rival in the music game charts this autumn will be The Beatles: Rock Band, which features at least two late musicians in its line-up.

Will Rock Band, however, do John and George the disservice that Guitar Hero does Kurt? Thanks either to a designer with a decidedly sick sense of humour, or to an unintended quirk of the software, the Kurt avatar, once unlocked, can be used to sing or play along to other songs. Which is why YouTube has begun to fill up with clips of poor Kurt being forced to imitate Flavor Flav, or – worse – join Bon Jovi on stage for a performance of "You Give Love a Bad Name".

If, like me, you're not much of a gamer, you may imagine this all to be a bit of a niche concern, nothing to worry about in terms of maintaining Cobain's memory in the wider culture. But in 2007 Guitar Hero and Rock Band between them made £100m more than all conventional digital music sales from iTunes and its competitors combined. So successful is the genre that even traditionally technophobic acts such as The Beatles and Metallica have succumbed to the guitar game's charms and released their own versions.

The key to its popularity, I would suggest, is the desire of dads with disposable income to see their sons develop an appreciation of, say, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Watching his seven-year-old strum along to Santana is a source of unbounded joy to a man of a certain age. Thus the various editions of Guitar Hero and Rock Band have sold well over 35 million copies.

So Cobain's posthumous humiliation is no trifling matter. Grunge fans the world over will have to watch their fallen idol crotch-rocking with Richie Sambora. It's like forcing Willie Nelson to duet with Jessica Simpson, or Iggy Pop to advertise car insurance. The living are more than welcome to sell their souls to the man – or their likenesses to the games manufacturers – if they so wish. I'll be very glad to strum along to "Paperback Writer" while Paul McCartney counts the royalties. But is it fair to impose the same arrangement on the deceased? Cobain once wrote in a song that he'd "rather be dead than cool". Perhaps he finally got his wish.

***

One of the earliest virals I remember seeing, back in 2005 – or about three generations ago, in internet time – was the (unofficial) Volkswagen ad, "Suicide Bomber". A terrorist pulls up outside a crowded café in a VW Polo and detonates his bomb vest, yet the explosion is nothing but a muffled thump from inside the "small but tough" car. It spread like digital swine flu.

Perhaps this is what someone was thinking of when they created their unofficial commercial, "Tsunami", for the World Wildlife Fund. It begins with a digital re-enactment of the Twin Towers' destruction on 9/11, and goes on to show dozens of planes heading for Manhattan's skyscrapers, to illustrate the vast number of lives lost in the 2004 Asian tsunami. WWF has denied any responsibility for the video, but recently confessed its involvement (along with advertising agency DDB Brazil) in a press advertisement featuring the same scene. Viral ads like "Suicide Bomber" may appear to thrive on bad taste, but they require something other than edginess to succeed: wit. "Tsunami" was, in more ways than one, totally witless.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: Things have moved on – at least when I met bin Laden, I didn’t fear for my life

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment