|By Oliver Yates Libaw
N E W
Y O R K, Dec. 4 — The video game with the
biggest crowd around it at the Bar Code arcade on a recent Saturday night
didn’t feature ultra-violent gun battles or buckets of blood and gore —
just some slick dance moves.
In “Dance Dance Revolution,” players score points by dancing in time to
the music (see sidebar for a complete explanation).
The peculiar game is one of the top
attractions in the Times Square amusement center, and it has become a
phenomenon in many arcades on the West Coast, spawning tournaments and
luring new customers
It’s provided a welcome
change for those worried about video-game violence, including lawmakers in
places such as Indianapolis, St. Louis and other cities that are battling
to bar minors from playing violent video arcade games without parental
The game’s success also offers game
makers a compelling reason to find more family-friendly hits, says Timothy
Burke, a Swarthmore College professor who studies pop culture and youth
“Kids are saying, ‘I’ve been waiting
for something new to do,’” he says.
which has been described as high-tech combination of the children’s games
Twister and Simon Says, is clearly a change of pace from the usual
assortment of fighting, racing, and shooting
Burke calls it “an exotic, videofied
form of karaoke.”
“It puts you at center
stage, as if you were the star.”
That kind of
novelty is providing a welcome boost for the arcade game industry, which
has lost ground to home games and other forms of amusement in recent
Its total revenue has fallen from $7.3
billion in 1989 to $5.7 billion last year, and pool tables passed video
games in revenue in 1999, according to research by Vending Times,
an industry trade publication.
At the Times Square arcade, the chance to show
off in front of the crowd was what turned Rey Diaz on to Dance Dance
As the 18-year-old fed his $2 into
the Dance Dance Revolution game console and started hopping on the colored
platforms in time to the disco music throbbing from the machine, over a
dozen people stopped to gather around and watch.
“I’m showing people my skills,” he proclaimed
while trying to catch his breath after his routine ended.
The scene at the Times Square-area arcade was
only a shadow of the fanatical following that Dance Dance Revolution has
already drawn on the West Coast. In cities like Los Angeles and San
Francisco, clubs and teams devoted to Dance Dance Revolution have sprung
up, and some arcade owners credit the game with bringing in a flood of new
The game, known as DDR to fans, was
introduced in California in March of 1999, after becoming a Japanese
phenomenon of nearly Pokemon-like proportions. There, some arcades had
whole rooms devoted to the game, its maker, Konami, reports.
Konami has created a host of similarly
off-beat games, which have players scoring points by scratching out beats
and noises on controllers shaped like turn tables and guitars. Sega’s
Samba de Amigo home game comes with two maracas that plug into the
Dreamcast game console.
Day and Night
DDR caught on within months in West Coast
arcades, and was on back order for a time, as Konami, the game’s
manufacturer, scrambled to meet demand.
the Bay Area, players like Jason Ko, a 21-year-old student at UC Berkeley,
are responsible for the game’s success.
playing DDR three or four days a week all summer, Ko said he’s recently
tapered back to one game a week. He has a version of the game for his
Playstation game machine at home, which lets him practice his routines
without the expense of the arcade.
“I was not
much of a dancer before this game,” he says. Ko rarely went to the arcade
before he discovered DDR, and he doesn’t like violent fighting
Now, however, he has a friend he does
DDR routines with, and has traveled up and down the West Coast to compete
Ko is soft-spoken over the
phone, but the game has brought out the exhibitionist in him. “I like
showing off, getting attention,” he says.
Web site, DDRfreak.com, records about 30,000 hits a week, and he says the
number continues to increase as the game’s popularity spreads.
At the Southern Hills Golfland, located in
the suburbs south of Los Angeles, Dance Dance Revolution “was an immediate
sensation,” says the arcade’s assistant manager, John Bailon.
“And after a while it grew to something even
bigger,” he said, with a note of disbelief in his
At the Metreon Arcade in San Francisco,
dedicated DDR players gather several times a week, some even coming every
day to perform for the crowd.
“We expected 30
to 35 plays a day” when the game was introduced last May, says Metreon
spokeswoman Marlene Saritzky. “In the first 30 days, we had 4,000.”
“I think it’s going to be the Twister of the
new millennium,” she says. “It’s the new Arthur
Many players even cite DDR as their
primary source of exercise, and tell stories of friends who have lost
dozens of pounds mastering the game. “This one just kind of struck a
nerve,” says Mary Hermanson, a Konami spokeswoman.
|An Unusual Machine |
Dec. 4 — The 8-foot-tall
Dance Dance Revolution game doesn’t feature a joystick, buttons or a
Instead, players step on lighted
platforms in time with the throbbing techno-pop music and flashing
pink neon lights, as they try to match the instructions on the
Quirky, 1970s-styled animated
characters on the display demonstrate the moves and egg contestants
on, shouting "Looking good!" when the player executes a tough step,
and pronouncing "Come on!" when he
Many seemed unsure what to make
of the unusual game, which is still fairly new to many East Coast
arcades. Most seemed to think it was just strange enough to be
“It’s a very cool and exciting
game,” said Milinaire Davis, as she watched a player show off his
moves, though she admitted she hadn't yet tried it
It may seem strange, her friend
Fermon Gibson said.
“But once you play
it, you’re hooked.”
— ABCNEWS.com’sOliver Yates Libaw
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