DDR Out Of The Closet

(We won’t say Dancing Queen – he would kill us)

My name is Todd "GIN Hardcore" Hargosh, and I am a DDR junkie.

At first, my opinion of all the music/rhythm genre titles (DDR included) were that they were all a joke to me: part of another niche Japanese gaming fad that would die in time. After all this is the same company who releases cheap dating simulators or games where you literally spank a plastic butt and are then given a fortune that predicts your sexual future. Given that to get the fortune you have to assault a computer game in public, I can’t imagine too many "you are a healthy adult" ones pop out of the machine.

Granted, my original thoughts of DDR would nowhere be near the level of the previously mentioned monstrosity, I just didn’t think it would hit the States hard, and with my first visual impressions at E3 2000, I just didn’t see it for myself.

Jump forward to Halloween 2001. Our local Dave & Buster’s debuts a similar game to DDR by a rival Korean developer (Andamiro) named Pump It Up. Again I first turned my nose into it, until a hot girl dressed up like Britney Spears (this is Halloween, remember) invited me to give it a shot. Not turning down the invite of a Britney look-alike (too bad she wasn’t the real deal), I gave PIU a chance, and even though I sucked at first, I was starting to enjoy it.

Several weeks later, I got the hang of the game, and started even doing my own freestyling moves (hand plants, knee drops, 360s, splits, you name it) to the mix. What was even better was that I was drawing a crowd every time I performed, and it was quite a rush. I didn’t want to stop until I completely beat Beethoven Virus with an S rating, and no copious amounts of shin splints, broken fingers, shredded knees, or other injuries was going to stop me!

It was then that I decided to give DDR a try as well, so I went to the only place that had it (for the time), which was Springfield, VA. My success there didn’t work out as well, because there were always several 10-year-old Korean kids who were scoring Perfects and AA ratings even at Level 10. Hell, I’m lucky to get even a single A at Level 6, even today.

As a result, I started working candidly, downloading songs from various DDR releases and practicing move patterns. I even went as far as getting both DDR Konami and DDRMAX for the PS1 and 2 respectively as well as a metal arcade pad on eBay (which cost me close to $100) so I could have the best arcade-style experience possible.

With my newfound success, I wanted to tell most of my friends back home about this new drug I experienced, but most of them laughed at me. There was one guy in particular, a manager for a local software store, who thought my new pastime was silly. But Considering his background (an "Ol’ Bug Eyes" Miyamoto-loving, Final Fantasy worshipping, Nintendo fanboy who is still demanding that I try out Eternal Darkness which I am dead set against) he would most likely not give DDR the time of day. Or so I thought.

That is, until he told me that his local mall’s arcade put in DDR Extreme. When I found out, I went there right away to show him how to play it, but like a typical amateur, he at first was too chicken to try it out despite having a new Beginner mode, and only watched me perform my typical Level 6 freestyling.

I thought that would be it for him, until I got a call on my cell phone, telling me that he’s getting more and more into DDR. Visiting his store last week to pick up both NCAA 2004 and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, I caught him buying a copy of DDRMAX and a Mad Catz Beat Pad.

My initial reaction: "My God, I created a monster."

He then calls me the same night while I’m deep into Knights, telling me that not only was he converted, but his wife was as well. I even told him to let me know when to come up again so I can bring my metal pad with me and can show him how a pro handles DDR.

I’ve been keeping my DDR addiction somewhat private for the last year and a half, but thanks to Chella’s column last week, I am now able to come out of the closet about it. I am a DDR junkie and damn proud of it. In fact Chella, you said you were coming to the US for a visit in September, right? We need to team up! You and Konami Boy bring your metal pads! We will have an across-the-ocean freestyle competition.

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