Wednesday, October 27, 2010


How would you feel if you met someone who spent most of his or her time playing vintage video games like Donkey Kong or Pac Man? Would you tell this person to "get a life?" Would you automatically peg him or her as a "loser?"

Or what if you met someone who spent their time practicing air guitar rather than actually learning how to play the instrument for real? Another "loser," right?

But what if you realized these people are actually purpose-driven, committed individuals striving to be the best they can be within their chosen fields (master of Donkey Kong, best air guitarist in the world)?

You'd probably still find their obsessions weird but take a look at two documentaries that examine obsessed Donkey Kong and air guitar players - Seth Gordon's THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS and Alexandra Lipsitz's AIR GUITAR NATION - and you'll see people driven to succeed.

These documentaries aren't so much about the obsessions these people have, they're about unstoppable drive and commitment to achieve.

The challenge for most people is to get good at something. Some people are driven to be really good at something. And others simply need to be the best at this certain something and they'll push themselves to hit this pinnacle no matter what it is or how weird it may seem to the outside world.

Its not hard to figure out why people endlessly play video games. Its because you can keep score and the person with the highest score is deemed best. In THE KING OF KONG, player Steve Wiebe is driven to achieve a Donkey Kong score that will beat record-holder Billy Mitchell, who had previously achieved a Donkey Kong score of over a million in the 1980s. And, using his mathematical and engineering acumen combined with acute hand/eye coordination, Wiebe does it. Subsequently, he's ranked best (much to the consternation of Mitchell).

But what about air guitar? Air guitar's a whole different story. How do you judge best air guitarist? And what does an air guitarist need to do to be judged best? Can you be the best if you simply believe you are? Is it about total immersion into the song? Who doesn't air guitar at some point in his or her life? Am I the best because I can air shred to Yngwie Malmsteen or simply beat the air to Ramones punk chords? Judging air guitar becomes a totally subjective exercise.

Video games are objective. But scores can be marred by game-play error. Yet if I'm airing to Stevie Ray Vaughan's version of LITTLE WING and I miss a note - but I'm filled with the necessary passion - who's going to notice a missed note?

To quote the great Bjorn Turoque (aka Dan Crane) from the Lipsitz film, "To err is human; to air guitar, divine."

Turoque in AIR GUITAR NATION isn't just looking to be the best air guitarist, he's looking for divinity.

And what's better than that?

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