I’m not one to encourage violence, but I want you to do something for me: any time someone tells you they know what’s coming next in gaming, you punch them square in the face. I don’t care if this is your friend, game dealer, or hundred year old granny, you get that negative reinforcement going, and punch ‘em right in the gob. It’s the only way people are going to learn.
Granted, I may be a little hypocritical here. No, I didn’t learn this listen thanks to a swift blow to the teeth, I learned it via the most popular pastime of 2002: Dance Dance Revolution.
Dance Dance Revolution came out of nowhere at approximately the turn of the millennium, and completely conquered the arcades. It’s almost impossible to describe to someone who didn’t live through it… Well, I suppose first you’d have to explain what an “arcade” even is… and that you used to be able to find them in these places called “malls”, which were like Amazon, but you had to walk all over the place and sometimes you got a cinnamon bun, which was a rolled up ball of dough sweetened with delightful amounts of sugar. So you’d get hyped up on your flavored dough wad, and then you’d beat your sneakers (a style of shoe popular with people capable of walking away from the computer) over to the arcade (like the mobile app store, but with a crappier return on investment, and more human interaction possibilities) to play Dance Dance Revolution (point of this article) with your friends (like your Xbox buddies, but with more mundane names, and maybe sneakers). It was an amazing time to be alive!
Alright, I know I’m being facetious, because I’m pretty sure even eight year olds can identify DDR arcade “cabinets”. Likely due to their gigantic arcade footprint, they’ve become a sort of cultural icon that appears in television shows (mostly animated) well past the point that anyone really cared about the games. It’s kind of like the amazing, super-dynamic computer GUIs that “hackers” employ in movies: shows need something that says “video games are happening”, but is still visually interesting, and isn’t just located on the living room set. Come to think of it, I want to say I’ve seen DDR (or an off-brand simulation) in a million shows, but never once have I seen anything like the iconic “mats” anywhere but directly under my own feet.
Yes, see? Here’s something the kids today might not know about: Dance Dance Revolution had home versions (many of them! There was one with Mario!), and, in order to play the game at home, you had to purchase a soft mat that simulated the hard dance pad of the arcade. Want two players? Two mats. And at a time when Playstation games averaged about $40, any extra hardware seemed like a tremendous expense (… though this may be my own memory as a broke college student overriding any actual values). It’s funny to think about the mat today, as we haven’t seen such a peripheral since, while, at the time, it didn’t seem all that divorced from the NES Power Pad, a similar device that was supposed to inspire kids to get up and exercise with their favorite games… but mostly led to everyone just crouching and playing the floor like a pair of bongos to get the highest score on the long jump. So, yes, anyone that wanted the “home experience” for DDR was in for a pretty costly investment, but shell out the bucks, and then you too… could look like an idiot in front of your friends.
That was always the other thing about Dance Dance Revolution: you looked like a jackass. The whole point of DDR was to stomp on different arrows on the mat in their proper cardinal directions. Up, down, left right: all pretty straightforward, and usually there was an up/down or left/right combination that made you jump on both directions simultaneously. It was, according to the title and premise of the game, supposed to make you dance, but… well… let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend busting out those moves at the club. I’m sure that some people are capable of getting a perfect score while elegantly pirouetting across the pad, but my friends and I always looked like inebriated walruses flopping in some semblance of the beat. If a veterinarian had wandered into the den during Dynamite Rave, I have no doubt that one of us would have been tranqed and dragged back to the zoo to spend the rest of our days grazing with the hippos. Everyone involved, however, was completely aware of this fact, so it wasn’t like when your buddy tried to play Virtual Boy without the stand and is lost his job because his boss grossly misinterpreted what was going on in that picture. In retrospect, it seems almost like a mass hallucination: we all agreed this was fun, and, despite still having eyeballs, we let it slide that everyone involved was suddenly a flailing orangutan. And, yes, the internet had been invented at that point, so we had all the modern mocking conveniences we have now.
And this is all just a really roundabout way of saying that DDR was a singular, completely illogical flash in the pan of gaming that seemed amazing for about a console generation and a half, and then gave up forever. Nobody, once, said that the next big fad in gaming would be pretend-dancing, and, arguably, nothing descended from the DDR craze, either. Yes, today we have Just Dance and similar Kinect games that allow the player to get their workout/dance-on through following rigid, onscreen instructions, but Dance Dance Revolution always had more in common with Parappa the Rapper than wobbling along to Jason Derulo/Han Solo songs. Ultimately, the Guitar Hero/Rock Band fad I can understand, because everybody wants to be a rockstar. The Wii Sports fad I can understand, because everybody wants to be a professional bowler. Dance Dance Revolution, though? Everybody wants to flail around on the dance floor? Who would have expected Konami to get more attention with its stomping simulator than the game where you can turn into a bat?
So go ahead and tell me that you know the next big thing in gaming. Virtual reality? Mobile gaming? Cloud-based game sharing? If DDR taught us anything, it’s that the next big fad could be a snake charming simulation that comes with its own plastic flute peripheral, and no one would bat an eye.
Nobody knows what’s coming next in gaming, and that’s just fine. Prepare to be astonished, because that surprise? Well, it’s a little better than a punch to the face.
Note: Gogglebob.com and Goggle Bob himself do not actually condone punching anyone in the face. It is an exaggeration of an action for the sake of hyperbole, and should not actually be attempted. Violence is bad, and not just because Goggle Bob cannot take a punch.
FGC #90 Dance Dance Revolution: Konamix
- System: Playstation 1. Incidentally, I don’t remember the specifics of how these things work, but I couldn’t get my PS1 Dance Pad to work with the Playstation 2, so all screen shots are off a PS2 just using a controller. However, I did play the game “for real” on an original Playstation 1 for this article, just don’t have a capture device hooked up to that one. I know this is something you are interested in knowing.
- Number of players: Two, the only way to play DDR. I realize it’s an expense to own two dance mats, but maybe you can convince your friend to buy one, and then you can share.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Konamix is the “Best of” of the Playstation era DDR games… and the only other two games were the original and Disney Mix… and no Disney songs appear in this game. Okay, so it’s a “Best of” of the various arcade editions of the time, and I swear I used to know which versions had my favorite songs, but that knowledge has long since escaped my brain (thankfully). This leaves me with barely any memory of what makes Konamix so special, aside from the fact that it came out at the end of the PSX’s lifespan, and is made redundant by every PS2 DDR release. Can that be its claim to fame? That it’s completely forgettable, and “just another DDR game”? I’m going to go with that.
- Favorite Song: End of the Century, which, at its core, is a crazy techno/rap remix of Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee. I don’t even know how such a thing should be allowed to exist, but here it is, and it’s a pretty fun chart to actually play.
- Did you know? Dance Dance Immolation. Have you ever heard of it? Look it up. It’s… probably not what you’d expect, but it is properly named.
- Would I play again: I’m going to just say no. I’m not getting rid of my dance pads anytime soon (because I’m a hoarder), but, like Guitar Hero or Karaoke Revolution, that extra barrier of “you have to pull out the right toy to play” prevents me from actually doing anything, and I just wind up playing Castlevania 3 again. Sorry, DDR, I finally have a gaming area large enough to entertain a dance off, but nobody feels like getting off the couch.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… M*A*S*H for the Atari. What? WHAT?! ROB, are your circuits crossed? I don’t think that’s actually a thing. It is? Alright, guess I’ll play it. Please look forward to it!