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Voices from the Community

Making Moves

Arcade Dance Games Links Teen Cultures

By Min Lee/ PNS

The Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) sweeping across many American arcades and living rooms is becoming a showcase for young dance talent.

At first glance, DDR looks like just another video game. But when someone steps up to the platform and the music begins, you realize there’s a lot more to it than just arrows and dancing.

DDR has brought video games into dance culture. That’s the revolutionary part of the Dance Dance Revolution.

Lights flash from the top of the machine, and music bumps from speakers at the bottom of this walk-in arcade game. Arrows point in one of four directions, scrolling up the screen until they align with arrows at the top. At that moment, the dancer has to step on corresponding arrows on the floor pad.

Looks simple enough. Now imagine two arrows at the same time, then a sequence of four making a circle, then a sequence of eight alternating arrows. For the length of a song, more than a thousand arrows scroll across the screen.

Since 1998, DDR has been manufactured by the Japanese company Konami. The game was wildly popular in Asia before it hit American shores. Now the Internet is full of Web sites dedicated to DDR. One of the most popular is, which tracks DDR arcade locations by state. The site lists more than 500 arcades nationwide, with 217 in California.

DDR has spread to countries such as Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and the United Kingdom.

At arcades like Albany Bowl, the Bearcade in Berkeley and the Sony Metreon in San Francisco, crowds of mostly teens and young adults gather to watch the Dance Dance revolutionaries do their thing. Many observers shadow the players’ moves, as if they were on the pad themselves.

You can tell when dancers are new to the game. Beginners are usually just stepping and not really dancing. But after they know the steps, they get creative. Combining dancing talent and game familiarity, a select few graduate to creating their own styles. These are the stylers.

You might see people C-walking, breaking, raving, flipping and so on. Katie, 16, who plays once or twice a week, has seen stylers who “jump in circles, or hit the pads with their knees. Times like that you’ll have to look over people’s shoulders to see what’s going on.”

Adam, 18, who’s been playing DDR for two years, says, “After you finish the game and everybody starts clapping, it’s like, ‘Damn, I’m hella good.’ ”

Watching is how people usually get into this game. “It seems that more people get interested as they see people do it,” says Ryan, 16. “I’ve seen DDR around for about a year and it’s grown into a trend, or even part of a culture. Competitions are being held, the machines are popping up everywhere, prices are going up in some places, and more people watch every time someone good plays.”

Some patrons of the game go to the arcades more than three times a week to get their style down. Even people who own the game on Sony Playstation or Sega Dreamcast keep visiting the arcades to show off their new moves.

Jason, 19, who plays two or three times a week, says DDR is so popular because of its high energy. “It isn’t just sitting down and watching a TVscreen — you have to move around.”

The dancing and the upbeat music put DDR right into the center of teen dance culture. It’s got techno, trance, rave, hip hop and many other types of music in the different mixes. With more mixes emerging, DDR is evolving into a culture.

This interactive dance craze doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon. Zeid, 18, a frequent DDR dancer, believes that “the whole dance culture is gonna keep going, and DDR is part of that dance culture.”

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