It's this phenomenon around which Guitar Hero is based, and it's this which raises it above its peers. In DDR, there's no sense of your actions creating anything. The game merely judges your actions. DDR isn't about tricking you into thinking you're dancing - to actually succeed with DDR, you are dancing. There is no magic here, just you following orders. Similarly with Singstar and Karaoke Revolution: To do well in them isn't to be tricked into thinking you're a good singer - but it's to actually be a good singer. All the games may give you a little flash of the joy of performing with their feedback telling you how you're the greatest dancer or whatever, but that's a different thing from the flash of joy of performing the act itself.

Guitar Hero differs. Guitar Hero is about tricking you into thinking you're playing guitar. You press the buttons and strum with the flipper... and the appropriate noises appear. The power of Harmonix's system is how - even at the basic levels - they've judged the correct number of inputs to make you feel as if what you're doing has some connection to the music that's emitting from the speakers. That by waggling your fingers in a certain way, that riff screams out. You stop waggling your fingers... it stops. You're playing the music.

You know you're not. But you certainly feel like it.

What separates Guitar Hero from Harmonix's other offerings is its choice of peripheral. Playing on a controller creates a level of abstraction through the input method. Noises are appearing, but in a way which you know bears no relation to how they're really produced. With that plastic guitar hanging around your neck, that leap of faith is a lot easier to make. And this is where Guitar Hero achieves Harmonix's stated aim - to give a little of the absolute thrill of creating noise, feeling connected to this wave of pure sensation. You want to know what it feels like to play guitar? It's like the state of zen-tranquility in motion chased by surfers, samurai and shoot-em up addicts. It's a little like realizing you're the breath of God. Guitar Hero takes you into the neighborhood and shows you the view.

And as my ex put it after blasting through The Queens of the Stone Age's "No One Knows," "I deny anyone can be in the same room as Guitar Hero and be unhappy."

It's not a game. It's a pharmacological miracle.

And, returning to the point in question, Boston are level designers par excellence because their song shows off Harmonix's mechanics to their best effects. Other songs do various aspects of the performance better. Others are much more challenging. But none manage to express, in the topography of their guitar line, the varied and absolute pleasures of playing Guitar Hero.

It's more than just Guitar Hero, though. In its simplified - distilled - echo of real guitar playing, it teaches you a little of why guitarists play certain songs. Before playing Guitar Hero, I had something of an old punk's puritanical disgust for over-technical guitar players destroying records with their unwanted virtuosity. Now, I can see why the pleasure overwhelms them and they want to do so. The breathless rush after you fall off the end of a guitar solo into a hard, extended note makes you see this... it's addictive. So, they're addicted to it and can't help themselves. I don't really blame them. It's a feeling worth chasing.

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