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Dancing through the Revolution

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tucsonan Brett Roffenach dances on the Dance Dance Revolution videogame's platform yesterday at Funtasticks.
By Jessica Suarez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday December 3, 2002

Japanese arcade sensation has many in Tucson calling for a Dance Dance Revolution

Christy Monterey has a new way of spending the tips she makes waitressing.

Stepping onto the bright, noisy Dance Dance Revolution platform, she sinks her tokens in and gets ready to play.

About a dollar and 30 seconds later, it's all over.

"I just started playing a few weeks ago, but I'm addicted," said Monterey, an undeclared freshman.

"I like picking new songs, but I just don't dance that well," she said. Monterey says she sneaks away from her job at a nearby restaurant about three times a week to play at Golf N' Stuff, 6503 E. Tanque Verde Road.

Songs? Dancing? Is this a video game or a dance contest?
DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
The neon-lit speakers of the Dance Dance Revolution illuminate the Funtasticks game area.

Actually, it's both. It is Dance Dance Revolution, the arcade video game that got its start in Japan and now boasts a devoted following in the United States. It's been featured in articles in The New York Times, USA Today and the Arizona Republic. One fan Web site, DDRfreak.com, estimates that there are over 500 machines in arcades across the country.

The thing that separates DDR from hundreds of other video games is how it's played. Players stand on a platform and choose beat-heavy dance songs from a list. Once the song starts, they must perform complicated patterns of steps, activating the buttons on the floor to gain points. Think of it either as a really tiring video game or a noisy gym that charges by the minute.

Dance Dance Revolution also attracts crowds who either play themselves, or don't play but like to watch kids sweat it out on the platform. Players often say they wanted to try playing after watching other long-time fans do impressive moves. Jeremy Talley remembers what he thought about the game the first time he played.

If you dance...

Dance Dance Revolution locations in Tucson
· GameWorks Studio, 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd.
· Starcade at Century Park 16, 1055 W. Grant Road
· Funtastiks, 221 E. Wetmore Road
· Starcade at Century Park Place 20, 5780 E Broadway Blvd.
· Golf N' Stuff, 6503 E. Tanque Verde Road
· Brunswick Camino Seco, 114 S. Camino Seco

Solar Step Tucson: A Tucson Dance Dance Revolution Web site: http://www.allfearless.com/damicci/

"I thought, ╬Hey here's a game that even I can play. This is so simple, and what if I did this and put my feet here? Is anyone looking? Look at my feet go! I must be some kind of dancer dude!'" Talley said.

James Munoz had slightly more trouble the first time he played, a year ago.

"Initially I thought it would be simple, so I hopped on and quickly found out that there was a lot of finesse involved," he said. "One can't just stop here and there. You have to work on your rhythm and stealth."

Talley, a member of local metal band The Bled, says the game has improved communication between band members.

"It helps us to relax and unwind, and realize that we are normal dudes just like everyone else and that we don't have to impress anyone but each other. We are very supportive of one another when we play, when one of us is totally playing really horribly like they're a one-legged third grader, we don't say things like, ╬Hey are you some kind of third grader that only has one leg that's really playing horribly? What's wrong with you, Mike?'"

Bled member and fine arts freshman Ross Ott confirmed this, adding that there are some songs that he would like to see added to the video game.

"╬54 Cymru Beats' by Aphex Twin would guarantee a heart attack," he said.

Munoz, a member of another local band, Sex Fatale, played a concert with the Bled at Sega Gameworks on Nov. 7. He said dancing together has improved the band members' coordination.

"It gives us better ideas for onstage choreography, so we don't look like total amateurs," he said. Munoz said each member of both bands were paid $20 in Gameworks gift cards, adding that Talley and a friend of the band's spent all of the Bled's gift cards in a two-day DDR binge.
DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Flowing Wells High School junior Sam Robles attempts to keep up with the Dance Dance Revolution yesterday at Funtasticks.

Another reason so many people watch the game is that they are afraid to try it. The awkwardness of your first time playing, coupled with snickers and put-downs from the video game-playing elite, turn off many potential players. It's as if the social hierarchy has been flipped upside down. Here, it's the biggest nerds and video game addicts that determine your social status. DDR, then, becomes a closet addiction for those who are a little worried about what friends, lovers and others will think.

Brandie Bryant, an MIS junior, is somewhat embarrassed about her addiction to the video game.

"At first I thought that all the other players looked cool and I was having fun, but then after I got the hang of it, and after sharing some conversation with some of the hardcore cocky players, I felt kind of nerdy and sad that I had nothing better to do, just like them."

Others, like Munoz, use DDR as a litmus test for potential life partners.

"I took this girl out on a date, to the movies ¸ Century 16 ¸ and I'm sure she thought it was gonna be some easy going nice-boy date, but after the movie, we hit the arcade, and ╬Afronova' on maniac (a difficult DDR song) pretty much ended her. And, plus, it served as the deciding factor in whether or not a relationship would work out," Munoz said.

Talley, the most active player from his band, also recognizes the inherent nerdiness of video game addiction.

"I pretty much concentrate on how cool I feel all the time everyday, until I start playing DDR ¸ and then I feel uncool, and I realize that it's because whenever I see other people playing it, they look really dorky," Talley said.

In fact, the only thing that looks geekier than being bad at Dance Dance Revolution is being really good.


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