When you're a real-life guitarist like Billy Squier, seeing fans trying to emulate your behavior in a video game can be weird.
Squier, whose "Lonely Is the Night" was in "Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the '80s" and returns this week in "Guitar Hero 5," says he once saw some kids playing his hit in an electronics store.
"They were so focused on the game they didn't even notice who was looking over their shoulder," he says. "When I do this song in concert, there'll always be a few young kids playing air guitar ... which I'd attribute to the 'Guitar Hero' experience."
For younger musicians, landing a tune on "Guitar Hero" means invaluable exposure.
"It's ubiquitous, especially among younger fans," says AFI guitarist Jade Puget.
Tim Riley, Activision's vice president of music affairs, says bands young and old are becoming more aware of what "Guitar Hero" can do for them. The latest addition has "a lot of bands we've tried to get before," he says, citing the Arctic Monkeys and Dire Straits. "We get a lot more phone calls than we used to."
As "a bit of a geek," Riley says he feels a responsibility to bring diversity to each game's lineup. Classic or modern, he says, "great music needs to be heard."