Hero or Zero?

August 18,2008
Skaddadle
Todd Lieman( )
I’m not one for doing the blog-retread thing and simply reporting on a story that ran somewhere else (though I do think about it quite a bit). But then I saw the story about some parents who have let their kid drop out of high school to pursue his dreams of…(wait for it)…becoming a professional Guitar Hero video gamer.

At first, it seems kind of insane. Asinine. Stupid. Silly. Crazy. Idiotic. And any other words that seem to fit accordingly. But then, as we sit and watch the Olympics, which are rumored to still be going on despite the fact that Michael Phelps is no longer competing (though, I think he could probably win a few other events, as well), is letting a kid chase his Guitar Hero dreams any different than letting a kid chase his Olympic swimming dreams?

Again, on the surface? Insane (and so on). The fact of the matter, however, is that gaming may very well be (with apologies to one of the great movies of all time, Say Anything) “the sport of the future.” (By the way, if you can tell me what the ACTUAL “sport of the future” was in the movie, I’ll send you an autographed copy of my book! First comment with the right answer wins.)


All kidding aside, video games are huge business, with electronic arts pulling in more money than some major movie studios. The new releases like “Madden” and updated versions of “Guitar Hero” or its “Rock Band” counterpart are front-page news – in the business, lifestyle, music, entertainment and sports sections. Like skateboarding, poker and so many fringe sports before it (can you say X-Games?), video games are only just beginning to hit their stride.

In case you don’t want to read the whole story, I should point out that the kid wasn’t doing well in school, anyway, didn’t seem to have many friends and, all in all, was on a path toward a sketchy future. According to his parents, he now has a tutor and generally seems more interested in his work.

So, I ask again – are the parents of this kid visionaries or fools? Is the kid destined to be a hero – on the cutting edge of a pop culture phenomenon, the way Tony Hawk was all those years ago – or a zero like…like…ummmm…well, that’s the point, isn’t it? A zero like so many people who have just dropped out, never to be heard from again.

Well, you “know me.” I’m all about the dream. And, if the kid has found his passion in this video game, I say go nuts. If he’s turning his life around because of this game, I say, “Encore!” His parents deserve to be on the cover of Parenting magazine (yeah, like THAT would ever happen).

But, seriously, if this kid turns out to be some kind of superstar (like a Tony Hawk or Michael Phelps), don’t his parents deserve the same kind of love and recognition that Phelps’ mom has been getting during the Olympic coverage? If this kid wins some international competition, earns endorsement deals from Gibson Guitars and ends up on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, People and Rolling Stone, shouldn’t we be looking to his parents for self-help advice?

I know it’s a long shot. Everything about this story is a long shot. The most important piece of the entire story is just this, though: The kid is feeling better about himself. For that, as far as I’m concerned…both he and his parents are heroes.

Rock on, brother!