Dancing the Night
Carey Li is dancing, her arms weaving a design in the air
as her legs nimbly follow an intricate routine of steps, leaps and
turns. Her face flushes with excitement as the music stops and the
gathered crowd applauds.
Li's stage isn't a theater; it's an arcade. And her stage is a
metal floor lit up with flashing arrows, set in front of a screen
that blasts sub-par techno music. It's called Dance Dance
Revolution (DDR), a video game which blends elements of Twister,
Simon and karaoke. It's hot, it's flashy and it's addictive.
The game is the latest obsession for Asian American youths like
Li, 20, and her friend Christine Chao. Arrows on the screen
map out a dance sequence, and would-be Paula Abduls match their
steps to those on the screen in order to advance through the game.
The DDR machine scores players based on accuracy; if you're perfect
or close enough, you clear songs with titles like "Boom Boom Dollar"
and "Brilliant2U" and advance to the next level.
"When I play, I get a rush," says Li, a student at University of
Los Angeles, where there's a DDR machine on campus. Her roommate
pulled her onto the stage about six months ago and she's been a
dancing queen since.
DDR, which is manufactured by Konami
Entertainment, has drawn a serious Asian American cult-like
following since its introduction in the U.S. two years ago. Though
there are no hard demographic numbers on DDR usage, anecdotal
evidence suggests that Asian American youths are flocking to the
machine like schoolgirls to Hello Kitty pencil sharpeners. Arcades,
particularly the small mom-and-pop operations on the West Coast as
well as bigger places like New York's newest uber-arcade in Times
Square, Barcode, feature the game.
Part of the appeal, Li thinks, is the performance aspect.
"You enjoy the attention," she said. "When you pass a song you
Fanatics also cite as benefits the workout you get from jumping
around frantically, as well as improved dance skills that Arthur
Murray doesn't teach. Whatever the appeal, those who try it are
almost invariably hooked. In Japan, where DDR is even more insanely
popular, rumors circulate about people going broke from the game.
After her first session, Li couldn't get the game out of her head.
DDR's appeal >>