defining characteristic of video games has long been their high
couch-potato quotient. The only exercise a person could expect to
get punching buttons and moving a joystick was the kind of wrist
workout that put them at risk for repetitive stress injury. Playing
the video game called Dance Dance Revolution, however, is nothing
less than a full-body aerobic activity.
Dance Dance Revolution – D.D.R. to the avid teenage throngs who
crowd the arcades to play it – is a Japanese innovation that is just
now catching on in America. Like a jukebox equipped to judge your
dancing prowess, D.D.R. asks players to choose from a selection of
booming, beat-heavy dance-club numbers; the players are awarded
points for their ability to perform the high-speed techno-tap-dance
routine that D.D.R. dictates, step by step, on screen.
Players stand facing the screen on a platform divided into
six-inch squares. Then, following the instructions displayed
on-screen, the player must start stepping on appropriate squares.
Because the steps are coordinated with the beat of the music, a
successful player begins very quickly to look like an accomplished
disco dancer. As players complete various steps, the machine calls
out encouragement like ‘‘Wow! You are too cool!’’ and ‘‘Oh, no!
The nature of the game also makes D.D.R. a spectator sport:
crowds gather around not to watch what’s on-screen but to see
players show off their moves. And because girls tend to be
socialized to become better dancers at an earlier age than boys,
D.D.R. is one of the first video games since Pac-Man to attract
female players in large numbers.
According to the popular Web site ddrfreak.com, there are more
than 500 D.D.R. machines in the U.S.; those in New York include one
recently installed in the P.S. 1 museum in Queens. Konami, the
game’s manufacturer, also makes a version of the game called Para
Para Paradise, in which players use tai chi-like arm movements to
explode objects on-screen.
Playing D.D.R. is, it turns out, part of a healthy lifestyle.
Fanatic players report often-significant weight loss resulting from
the workout it provides; imagine a Stairmaster powered by quarters.
The ddrfreak.com site even includes a page of tips for nonathletic
types on how to reduce injury and strain when playing D.D.R. For the
past several years, exercise machines have incorporated an
increasing number of video-game elements. Now the arcade has begun
to reach out in the other direction.