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Dancing video game causes some Hawaii students to lose weight, money
Updated 12:00 PM ET April 17, 2001

By Nicole Schnitzler
Ka Leo O Hawaii
U. Hawaii

(U-WIRE) HONOLULU -- A new pastime has swept through the walls of the University of Hawaii Gamesroom this semester, causing one man to lose 15 pounds, another to develop a $160-a-month habit and countless others to befriend the nearest change machine for quarters.

Gavin Correa had to buy new clothes because he lost so much weight. Playing Dance Dance Revolution for more than a year now, Correa claims to have once spent more than $50 a day on the video game.

"I can't stand still for very long," Correa said. "I like the stress-relieving aspect of it. It gives you adrenaline and tests your up-and-down reflexes. You see the up arrow on the screen, you stomp your foot down on the foot pad. It can be very confusing."

Dance Dance Revolution, a Japanese video game made by Konami, has combined some innovative ingredients for the ultimate in arcade fun. Lying somewhere between the call/response gameplay of Simon and the coordination of Twister, DDR is a beat game where music and rhythm play integral roles. Players "dance" to music by hitting four large buttons on a floorpad in order to match the arrows displayed on the screen.

The interactive performance element of DDR is what is especially alluring. The boredom of moving a joystick side-to-side or pushing buttons with your fingers is eliminated in this game where players use both their feet and their hands to dance.

James Kaneshiro, a devotee of DDR for the past four months, lost 15 pounds playing three to four games a day, dancing to 12 songs a day, seven days a week.

"I started because it was a fun way to get in shape, and when I started really getting into it, I met a lot of people," he said.

Home versions of DDR have been imported from Japan for the Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 for some time now, but the game has recently begun to appear in U.S. Arcades. Nintendo's 1988 Power Pad add-on for the Nintendo Entertainment System bore a striking resemblance to DDR's dance pad, and may very well have been the forerunner to today's interactive video games.

Locally, Fun Factory in Pearlridge was the first to get a DDR video game, followed by Hawaiian Brian's on Kapi'olani Boulevard, then Jungle Fun in Ala Moana Shopping Center.

Now campus Gamesroom has its own DDR game machine, which has brought a revolution to the way students spend their time in between classes. Lunch at Taco Bell, a couple rounds of dancing on the DDR machine to practice for a Friday night out, then back to the books.

Kelson Juan, a Honolulu Community College student, has been ranked seventh in the nation based on his score for playing DDR.

"It's a fun pastime. This is what we do on Friday and Saturday nights. My favorite aspect of it is the fact that everyone knows eye/hand coordination. But in this game you use eye/hand coordination, and you use your feet too. It (music rhythm) teaches you how to keep beats. Up beats, down beats, off beats -- it's all about style," Juan said.

Juan's habit costs him $160 a month, and he plays every day.

For the members of the University of Hawaii Gamesroom Team Kiken, or Team "danger," DDR has brought hours of snapping quarters into a machine, new wardrobes due to tremendous weight loss, and a healthy way to socialize and compete.

"It's still a video game," said Ernest Woo, a one-year DDR player and member of Team Kiken.

Woo, who takes dance classes to help develop his style, doesn't deny that the game offers good exercise.

"It's a mix of memorization and watching and making a good dance routine out of it all," Woo said. "I'm usually the guy in back playing other video games, but up here I'm getting exercise. The biggest challenge is trying to look like you're actually dancing rather than just stepping on the buttons and also trying to figure out how much pressure to apply on the buttons."

Kent Takemoto, Team Kiken's captain and a UH student majoring in Peace Studies, recently organized Hawaii's first statewide DDR Tournament last month at Campus Center. "Tournamix" is a competition divided into two categories: "Tech" and "Style." "Tech" is based on how accurate the steps are in following the machine, and "Style" measures how many tricks the player does.

Team Kiken is the first DDR team on the island and hopes to have more competitions in the future.

DDR eliminates the awkwardness of having to ask someone to dance, and introduces a new cultural phenomenon far removed from the static nature of traditional video games.

Say goodbye to Pac-Man and the two-step, and say hello to a fast-moving, hip-hop grooving cure for partner-less dancers and steadfast beat gamers.

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(C) 2001 Ka Leo O Hawaii via U-WIRE


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