POWAY – Jennifer Stoefen
couldn't believe her eyes.
There on a Dance Dance Revolution machine – a video game
immensely popular with preteens and teens – were images of drugs,
alcohol and a scantily clad nurse riding up and down on a syringe.
"I was appalled to see that stuff flashing on the screen," said
the 17-year-old Stoefen, who first saw the pictures in March on the
Dance Dance Revolution game at Poway Fun Bowl.
"I'm a teen-ager, but I've seen 5-year-olds playing this game,"
said Stoefen. "And as far as I'm concerned, those images are totally
unnecessary. Why do they need to have pictures with rows of pills,
cocktails, Ecstasy and a syringe?"
But Stoefen didn't just walk away.
She and several members of the Youth Advocacy Coalition
documented the pictures, contacted the company that placed the game
in the Poway Fun Bowl and convinced the arcade owner to replace the
machine – called a Solo 2000 – with one that does not have offensive
Stoefen said her group is made up of teens who are committed to
reducing the glamorization and promotion of alcohol, tobacco and
other drugs. They are part of the coalition's North Inland division.
"We feel really good about what we were able to accomplish," said
Stoefen, who graduated from Rancho Bernardo High School this month
and plans to study film at San Jose State University. "Little kids
or even teens don't need to see that stuff. And we were happy the
business people we dealt with agreed with us, too."
Dance Dance Revolution, or DDR, requires players to step on
arrows on a floor pad in sequence with arrows that flow up across a
large screen in front of them, accompanied by pulsating techno
music. The machines often attract crowds in arcades.
Jimmy Anvarino, who owns Poway Fun Bowl, said he was shocked when
he learned the nature of the background pictures flashing on his DDR
screen and was glad to replace the game.
"I am very much anti-drugs," he said. "We try to make this a
family place where kids can get off the streets. And we do tons of
birthday parties. When I found out they were promoting drugs, I
couldn't believe it."
Lynn Endres, whose family runs Area Amusement in San Marcos, the
company which placed the game in the Poway arcade, said she was more
than willing to have it switched out with one that does not have
drug, alcohol and sexually provocative images.
"I absolutely was unaware of what was on that game," said Endres,
who said she is the mother of a pre-teen daughter. "I could not
believe that they had something like that on."
Endres described the images as disgusting, and said she asked the
distributor to remove the machine as quickly as possible. She would
not name the distributor which provided the game to her company.
"Area Amusement is a family business," said Endres, who was given
an award yesterday for her cooperation. "My father started this
company and us kids have taken it over. We try to comply with the
rules and put stickers on the machines to guide parents. Boy, have
games changed in the last 20 years. We sure don't need this kind of
A spokeswoman for Konami of America, which sells several versions
of the Japanese-made Dance Dance Revolution game, said the Solo 2000
model was imported illegally into the United States.
"Of course we are concerned by something like this because we
want to be sure that we have appropriate content in arcades," said
Tammy Schachter of Konami's marketing department. "Perhaps that is
why we chose not to import this model."
She said the purpose of the game is to get kids moving and
exercising. In fact, some elementary schools have begun to
incorporate the machines into their physical education classes.
Because the Solo 2000 is not sanctioned by Konami of America,
Schachter said she did not know where other versions of it might be
Konami has taken out ads in trade publications telling arcade
owners that illegal machines are being operated in the United
States, and that Konami technicians will not service them, said Kirk
Prindle, Konami's general counsel.
"This kind of thing is really hard to control," Prindle said.
"Even when we go after them in the courts, some of these shops just
close up and disappear."
Ken Bridenstine, a spokesman for the North Community Inland
Prevention Program – which sponsors the Youth Action Coalition –
said his group is trying to track down other Solo 2000 machines
through a fan Web site, at http:// www.ddrfreak.com, that lists the
locations of 343 DDR machines in California and others throughout
the United States. As they do, they will contact other coalition
groups to see if they will pursue the removal or replacement.
"We think just about every arcade out there has one or more of
these machines because they are that hot," he said. "And they really
are popular with young kids.
"Our point is that even though this stuff is in the background,
it's there and it says in a way that drugs and alcohol are all
right. Teens already see enough of that, we really shouldn't
glamorize those things for little kids, too."
Brian Clark: (760) 752-6761; firstname.lastname@example.org