Dance Dance Revolution

A gift we bought for my youngest daughter, has become one of the social focal points in my home (and those I’ve travelled to who own a ps2) since Christmas morning. As much as I have enjoyed playing mmorpg’s on my pc, there is something completely different in the gameplay with physically interactive games like the eye-toy, ddr and guitar hero. They remind me much more of the ‘jeux de societé’ (or duly called board games in english) we used to play as a family. Although you can play alone (yes, sadly, I have been known to play scrabble alone pre-pc days!), the fun comes from playing in a group. The game is designed for single player, or competition mode (with 2 mats), but cooperative play is possible if you ignore the design of ‘game mode’.

Along with the game mode, there is a stellar master mode, this allows you to unlock different avatars (for spectators to watch, since the player has little time to look at anything but the scrolling arrows), and new songs to dance to. Each ‘level’ is designed as a planet, and the points are based on cumulative dance sessions in packets of three.

After a few weeks of playing on beginner mode, tonight we decided to play on “basic” (the second of 4 levels – beginner, basic, difficult & expert), figuring we were getting the hang of the movement and the pace of the game. After a few miserable failures, and one physical break down, where a friend, after struggling with the speeding arrows passing her by, chose to simply lay down on the dance mat and roll around the arrows hoping one or two would hit.

So many ways to “play” this game outside of the proposed design. My daughter and said friend played 4 feet 1 dance mat, each person choosing 2 arrows that they would control – sadly, even in all of the chaos, their score was higher than mine was …

Although many of the questions I am thinking are elementary in terms of game studies, I am curious as to how these games (ddr, guitar hero, wii et. al) fit into the ‘social’ study of games. In terms of studying player interaction in physical spaces via the technology they are playing in and with, do these games pose questions different than socially dependent games like mmo’s?

For now, I will try not to think too much and concentrate on the flurry of arrows that will surely pass by in my dreams.

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