Dance Dance Revolution is a lifestyle. Every day, thousands of grown adults spend their evenings stepping in time to J-Pop and Touhou Music. And I’m one of them. The childlike excitement of spending a few hours per week at an arcade has become my anchor to socialization in an era where nothing fun is happening.
A Global Pandemic, Turbulent Domestic Politics, and few aspirations beyond survival have hollowed the resolve of many adults my age.
Things have soured so much, I’ve had to learn new words to describe it all. Doomscrolling is among my favorites, slang that describes the Social Media void: Endlessly descending into personal anecdotes of just how bad everything is. Like a car crash or a Liveleak visit, you just can’t look away sometimes.
It’s amazing then, how much I actually forget when I swipe my e-Amusement Pass and start playing DDR again. Its allure isn’t just as a coping mechanism. When I leave the arcade after a session, that high stays with me the whole ride home, up the stairs into my flat, and into the kitchen where I kick off my running shoes and replenish all those burnt calories. Everyone wears a mask, everyone cares about you, and everyone’s uniquely motivated to succeed.
I love it.
Progress is made every time you step up to those four arrow panels. The only real hurdle is the initial decision to get on stage. Once you’re up there and the machine’s robotic MC introduces the song, everything just fades away.
It’s a total trip, and isn’t just something reserved for the Dance Dance Revolution crowd. Modern Rhythm Games are masters in player initiation and retention. The flashing lights, loud music, and cluster of players that congregate around a machine just beg for it to be investigated. On top of a layer of personal improvement- New songs, events, and other goodies await every time you approach. Paying per session provides drive in ways traditional games just don’t. When money is on the line and your turn could be cut short by failure, you’ll work to make that credit last.
The game subtly guides you up the difficulty ladder with each passing session. You’ll gradually break through plateaus and push past your limits: You’ll clear charts that seemed impossible when you started, patterns that dazzled your eyes months ago will make sense, and your favorite tunes are so practiced you can complete them without making a single mistake.
In poetic fashion, you’ve grown to become the player that inspires others. Perhaps you’ve reached or even surpassed the player that inspired you initially. With every visit to the machine, you enter a place where you have complete agency. Perhaps as a byproduct, Rhythm Games promote independence, and DDR combines that with the natural highs of exercise. When you finally do step off stage, you’ve improved not only as a player, but as a person. And that’s the highest honor I can give any game, rhythm or otherwise.
Editor’s note: assuming you have open arcades in your country right now 🙁