Kelly Law-Yone's road to virtual rock stardom began in Dallas, where she grew up and now attends school at UTD. As a child she took piano lessons and continued playing music in her high school band.
Now, she's a part-time traveling professional videogamer—as a member of gaming group Team Pandemic she is known as "the Tipper Queen"—and something of a pin-up girl for geeky gamers all over the world. Declarations of love for her abound on the Internet.
Law-Yone says she had always dabbled in gaming, but she didn't really hone her chops until she got to college. "That was when I really started getting into all types of games," she says. "That's because my college is one of the nerdiest colleges around, so everyone plays videogames, so you have to get wrapped up into it."
Though she is now Net-famous as a Guitar Hero goddess, she steadfastly and quickly denies that it (or Rock Band) is her favorite game. That would be Super Smash Bros., from whence "The Tipper Queen" handle came. She says Super Smash involves the most skill and strategy of any game she's played. "A lot of people don't know that about me—they think Guitar Hero is, like, the only thing that I do," she says. "And I'm like, 'No, I play Smash a lot.' And I don't get known for that."
She also believes that Guitar Hero players don't get the credit they are due. "Playing real guitar is self-explanatory," she says. "But Guitar Hero is so involved that a lot of people watch the video and they are like 'She's not really playing. She doesn't have two hands on the guitar.' But then there's hammer-ons and pull-offs and star power"—technical tricks that enhance scoring—"and a lot of people don't understand that when they see somebody play. People don't appreciate a lot of the stuff that goes into playing that versus a real instrument."
Microsoft did see her talent though, and after seeing some of her performances on YouTube, drafted her to perform at the launch of Guitar Hero II for Xbox 360 last year. The C.E.S. gig with Slash and Bill Gates was an encore.
"I didn't even know Slash was gonna be there until I got there, and I was like 'What? Slash? Here?' And I also didn't know I was gonna be meeting Bill Gates. I just thought he was gonna be giving a speech, and I'm like OK, and then when I get there I find out I'm gonna be part of this skit thing."
Even though Super Smash rules her heart, she does say that both Guitar Hero and Rock Band are "really good games." She doesn't believe that one will dominate the other; in her view, they each have their niche.
"If I'm with a group of friends in a party-type atmosphere, I prefer Rock Band," she says. "If I'm in more of a competitive mood, I like Guitar Hero III."
And Rock Band has the potential to humble even the mighty Tipper Queen. "When I play Rock Band people usually get me to play guitar because I am the only one who can play the parts a lot of the time, but I think I prefer singing the best," she says. "I am the worst at it, and I can't do drums either. I'm trying though. I got it for Christmas, and I'm still learning."
Which brings up a point. Videogames have long been considered by parents as a meaningless waste of their children's time and energy. To a degree, they have a point—that kids need to be physically active several hours a day is not in dispute. But increasingly, scientists are finding that gaming does have some positive attributes.
Military games can teach strategic thinking that is applicable in real-life non-combat situations. Some surgeons use videogames to warm up their hands before they operate. Some kids gain confidence through mastering tasks they once thought impossible.
Law-Yone points out another. Videogames (especially music games) hammer home the lesson that "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Just a couple of years ago, she was a novice gamer. She had never played Super Smash or Guitar Hero, for example. "That was how I got started—everyone was playing Smash, and then they started playing Guitar Hero. So I usually just pick up what everyone else is playing and I try it out. If I'm really bad at something I will play it nonstop until I am halfway decent."