IN RECENT YEARS, IBM HAS been trying to shed its decidedly uncool image. It has loosened its dress code, opened a hip World Wide Web site, and aired a series of uncharacteristically humorous TV commercials playing off various cultures around the globe. And now it has teamed with the rock band Aerosmith to publish a multimedia CD-ROM game for would-be musicians.
Created by privately held startup Virtual Music Entertainment Inc. in Bedford, Mass., Quest for Fame runs on IBM-compatible PCs with sound cards and has an anticipated street price of $48.95. Macintosh and Sony PlayStation versions are in the works, too.
Instead of a joystick, players use Virtual Music's V-Pick, a handheld device that lets you play an imaginary guitar. The gizmo, included with the program, senses when it has touched an object, such as a thigh or desktop, and signals the computer to play preset musical chords.
The object of the game: Achieve rock stardom by playing the V-Pick in time to Aerosmith's songs. Failing that, be jeered by fans and band members. Players start in their bedrooms and must strum their way to a garage and then to clubs before finally performing with Aerosmith in a stadium called the Humongodome. The impatient can bypass the story and go directly to any of the nine main venues and jam to their heart's content. "That's what we call the party mode," says Bradley J. Naples, Virtual Music's president.