Play a Fake Musical Instrument

Music video games let you feel like a rock star in your own living room.

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Everyone has a musician inside, a Joe Cocker whose hands twitch to favorite riffs and whose ears fill with the roar of the crowd. And it's the crowd that cements the appeal of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, video games that turn a living room into a stage to be shared with family and friends, says Michael Pachter, a game industry analyst. "Unlike a lot of games, it's actually fun to watch somebody play these."

The stage has expanded to include bass guitars, drums, and even singing. Players earn points for hitting color-coded buttons or the right lyric at the right moment. A video displays which notes are coming, and favorite rock hits help release the suppressed inner musician.

New game versions this year will feature music from Pearl Jam and Metallica. And the Beatles will finally make their digital debut in a video game of their own.