12 Steps to Addiction - Confessions of a DDR addict
By Jake Forbes
There's a new drug on the drug on the street, something far more addictive than nicotine, crack, or heroin. Addicts of this new drug aren't in the gutter or dirty alleys; they're in our places of entertainment: our arcades, our theme parks, our family fun centers. And how do normal people react when they see these addicts, drugged out like zombies, moving like automatons and blowing their hard earned allowance? They watch. They stand back, point, and make little comments to each other, while the addicts keep on using right in front of them. Occasionally one of the watchers gets curious. "I am the master of my own fate," these people think. "I can try it and stop whenever I want." These foolish, foolish people. I was once one of the curious… but now… I've crossed the line. And there's no going back. Might as well admit it, I'm addicted to Dance Dance Revolution.
DDR (as Dance Dance Revolution is known by people who don't like long names) is finally starting to make it big in the US. The 1'st mix has been in a few arcades for about a year, but it wasn't until the USA mix was released in October that the craze really began. If you haven't seen it yet, you need to get out more. Drive to the biggest city around and look for video games. If you don't see it, have a fit. I know I shouldn't be encouraging the use of this drug, but as I will explain later, I need your support. Before I get into the particulars of my addiction, let me discuss the 12 steps that lead to DDR fever.
1) Voyeurism- Anyone who's ever gone into an arcade with DDR has gone through this stage. "Look at that little boy. He's dancing. How cute!" or "Wow, those two girls are perfectly synchronized. How odd" are common first reactions. Parents, grandparents, and the exercise-phobic usually stop at this level.
2) Curiosity- After watching a few rounds of DDR your average young person (and hipper old person) will start to get pangs of curiosity about trying the game. This curiosity is soon met with a wave of self-consciousness as you realize that all the people who are watching the current dancers will be watching you, and you know you're going to suck. Extremely shy people start losing interest here.
3) Testing the Waters- Okay. The arcade is almost empty. There's no one around to see me and I've been dying to try this out for weeks. I'll give it a shot. This is how it all begins. The first game can lead to two outcomes:
a. "Wow, that's fun! It's not that hard after all. I have to play again."
b. "Stupid machine. It's not my fault that I was born without the ability to keep a beat."
Yes, the sad truth is that DDR does require one basic skill to play at even the simplest level. You have to be able to keep a beat. You can try just matching up the arrows, but unless you can anticipate the beats, it's just frustrating.
4) Getting Into It- The second and third games will go much easier than the first. You realize that you don't have to stomp the buttons to make them register. Maybe by your third game you will be ready to go beyond the "one foot" songs and try out a two or three footer. Having a friend to dance with at this level can be very encouraging.
5) The Birth of Confidence- Now that you can dance at more than the beginner level, you are less afraid to dance in front of others. Now, whenever you have three tokens in your pocket, you'll do what everyone else does and put one token on the rim of the machine to signal to the world that "YOU ARE NEXT." Everyone in the know will treat you with respect and back of when you're up.
6) Study- "Oh my God! I've only been using my right foot!" You don't know how you could have missed this. It's been so awkward to do those quick up to down switches with just one foot. Let me see how the good dancers do it. They use both feet equally… they don't always return to center position… they twirl around in a circle at the same point each time… There are strategies to be learned, and this is where you become the passive student (if you're like me, all of the really good players are half your age and you'd be too embarrassed to ask them for advice- if you're a little squirt, go ahead and ask your peers).
7) Logical Amateur- At this stage, the rhythm, the patterns, the footwork… these are all clear to you. You master all of the three, four, and five foot songs and venture into the six footers. You are particularly entranced by the Afronova song because of that bit that goes (up, down), (right, left), (up, down), (right, left) where you see the good players spinning around with feet spread wide. It looks fun, and you save it for your third song so if you screw up on the other parts, you can still get three songs for your money.
8) Logical Master- You can now handle anything that the computer throws at you. You see a flurry of arrows coming, you process them and you do it. Plain and simple. You feel confident, but you have doubts in the back of your mind as to whether you look as cool as those other players do. Which leads to…
9) Intuitive Amateur. You are ashamed to admit it, but you've started to memorize songs. You can do whole passages with your eyes closed, so to test yourself, you start playing advanced mode where the arrows fade away early. You also realize that now that your feet know what you're doing, you might as well try throwing in some upper body movements. You still get confused on some of the songs, but the easier ones like "Boys" and "Dub I Dub" are starting to lose their appeal.
10) Intuitive Master- You've now memorized every song you care to listen to (you don't have to memorize Silent Hill if that's not your thing), and are starting to do songs without the arrows. You do hand drops, backwards dancing, crazy spins. You also move onto the two dance pad songs. You can confidently take on any other player who before would have intimidated you.
11) Dance Dance Master- You have a reputation in the arcade. When you step up to the dance pad, people get ready for a good show. You have successfully blurred the line between "dance simulation" and "real dancing." If you're athletic enough, you combine acrobatic flips and breakdance numbers into your performances. Healthy people would draw the line here; enjoy the spotlight for a while, maybe call it quits…. But no. There's still…
12) Dance Dance Otaku- You now play DDR wearing a skirt and devil wings. It doesn't matter whether you're a girl or a boy, the devil girl is your favorite dancing character and that's who you want to be. You are the dancing devil girl and nothing can ever change that.
I am a level 7.5 DDR addict. I hope to cross over to level 9 by the end of the month. I am perfectly happy in my addiction, except for one small problem: I'm a 23-year-old guy who's only an average player. I'm not small and adorable, I'm not a cute bobbing girl, and I'm not a wonder to behold in my mastery. I'm just some guy, and the oldest guy playing at that. When other guys my age come into the arcade, they mock me with their whoops and faux encouragement. When the 8-year-old with the cute little sweater vest and parted hair steps down and I step up, the crowd dissipates. This would all be OK if I had a friend by my side. After all, dancing looks better when it's synchronized. Alas, none of my friends have the coordination, rhythm, or self-confidence to play more than one or two games. Now I have rocketed past them in skill and they have no desire to catch up. I'm alone.
Now, to all of you 20+ year-olds who stayed through this editorial despite the obscure references and who still haven't tried out DDR, just PLAY THE DAMN GAME! This is not a game for just 15-year-old girls. This is a game for everyone. Make DDR a cultural phenomenon like it is in Japan and not the sideshow curiosity that it is today. Show the world that I'm not a freak! I'm a human being! A human being! Of course I've got a pair of devil wings in my closet at home and I've been investigating my girlfriend's skirts to find one that looks like the devil girl's, but I'm still five steps away from that!