September 5, 2006

DDR Club Hopes To Improve Image

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Dance Dance Revolution is for geeks. At least, that is the popular perception.

DDR, as the game is more commonly called, is a music video game for Playstation 2 and X-Box. The player stands on a dance pad with arrows pointing up, down, left and right and moves his feet to the arrows displayed on the screen. The arrows represent different beats and can be subdivided into half, quarter, eighth and 16th notes depending on the level of difficulty. The game can be played with one or two players, although an extra pad is required for the second player.

Each game has its own songs and features, but in its basic terms, DDR is just jumping around on a pad.

Although the name implies otherwise, DDR is nothing like dancing. Players shuffle their feet around the pad while flailing their arms around to keep from falling over.

Judging by appearances, DDR is indeed a game for a unique demographic of video game enthusiasts who do not mind looking like complete fools.

However, in taking a closer look, DDR offers more to the open-minded player than just embarrassment.

“I think a lot of people see [DDR] as a geeky thing to do,” said Amber Secrest ’07, president of Cornell’s DDR Club. “But it’s really a social thing to do. It’s for everyone, not just the so-called geek.”

Cornell’s DDR Club includes over 200 members, but relatively few students are aware of its existence. The Friday club meetings include two televisions devoted to DDR, and one television to Super Smash Brothers Melee.

DDR, and especially the DDR Club, has an image of being just for nerdy gamers and certainly not for everyone. However, members of the club insist that the image is false.

“It’s so easy to make fun of the game, but that’s why people made the club — so people can see it’s not just a joke. It’s actually a good time. Regular people play it,” said Nate Sell ’09.

In terms of the club itself, Senior Member Nnaemeka Madubara ’07 insisted, “[DDR Club] has a nice, social aspect to it even if it’s not what people think.”

Devoted members of the DDR Club said that they joined the club for the social aspect of the night.

“DDR, Super Smash and Bubble Tea: there’s no other way to start off the weekend,” said Sonica Li ’10.

Secrest insisted, “If you come here, you’re going to have a lot of fun.”

Indeed, the environment at the DDR Club is both friendly and welcoming. In fact, the club meetings seem to serve as a Friday night option for those who do not like to go to parties.

Newcomers are welcomed and encouraged to attend. In fact, there is a rule that allows newcomers to jump to the front of the lines to play.

Sidharth Chatterjee ’07, a visitor to the club, said, “People here are cool. They’re extremely nice and very easy to talk to.”

Kenneth Law ’08 and Min Zheng ’09 came to the club because their friend had been encouraging them for weeks. Their explanation for not coming earlier: “They intimidate us.”

However, these “intimidating” DDR players actually cheer on all the newcomers to the game.

Freshmen may want to try out the club to meet new people. Many members reported having made friends through the weekly gatherings.

Crystal Tang ’10 said that everyone has made her feel welcome, and she always has fun. According to her parents, “[DDR] is not a valid form of social interaction,” but she, and everyone else at the club, strongly disagrees.

“Only two can play at a time, so you socialize while waiting to play” said Tang.

While most members were referred to as “cool” or “normal,” some of the stereotypes do still exist.

Jun Tong ’09 mentioned one specifically intense member: “He lives and breathes DDR. He studies it.”

“[DDR Club is] a haven for outcasts,” said Dominic Garcia ’09. “People at DDR Club are gonna be weird — that’s a given.”

However, Matthew Pokrzywa insisted, “A lot of people in it actually aren’t that nerdy. I feel comfortable with the people there.”

In addition to the social side of DDR, the game also serves as a fun form of exercise. Many referred to DDR as “good exercise,” and Mark Lee ’08 reported that he lost about ten pounds from playing.

In terms of DDR’s negative image, no one could offer or foresee a definite solution.

“I think in five to ten years it’ll be more mainstream in TV and movies. It’s getting more put out there,” Garcia said.

Justine Ho ’09 suggested that the image might change with celebrity endorsement.

However, many have accepted the image as permanent: “The idea of dancing around on a pad is inherently stupid,” Secrest said.

Alex Chin ’09 admitted, “We’re aware that we look stupid, but [the game] is so addictive, we do it anyway.”

According to Sell, more people actually play the game than will admit: “There’s a term called ‘Closet DDR Player.’ People are afraid to admit it. The image right now is that people are just silly and DDR is silly. We’re trying to improve it.”