Micro Essay: Dance Dance Platform

When someone good at Bemani games like Dance Dance Revolution steps up and plays, the game becomes more than pressing bright arrows. For the player, it is an experience that is both invigorating and challenging. For viewers, as Behrenshausen puts forth in his paper it is a performance. Whichever position you are in, you get enjoyment unique to the game. I will be honest, I am terrible at DDR but that does not reduce the amount of enjoyment I get from this active form of play. I might get a C or D on a song (and the random gratifying A) but I keep going back for more. What makes DDR so inviting but also addicting? The answer to that is the platform. Through the exploration of different forms of platforms used for DDR, we can see how the game depends on physical and social interaction to maintain its allure. We can then expand this idea to games in general and briefly look at how games like Pong change depending on the platform.

To begin, let us look at DDR. If you look at an arcade version, most would say that the dance pad is necessary for the game to work and a crucial part of the game. However, some variants of DDR, such as Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix, allowed you to use a controller instead of moving around and pressing the arrows on the dance pad/mat. There is also a free Bemani game called Stepmania that allows you to use your computer keyboard in place of a dance mat. This choice of platform makes Bemani games much more accessible but at what cost? Behrenshausen’s paper ends up with the conclusion that the physical nature of DDR is what makes it special, therefore what happens if you remove that entirely? To put it simply, the game becomes much less interesting and basic. All the forces that make DDR unique rely on those four directional arrows being physically hit.

While DDR would be good enough to illustrate how platforms are essential to games, by looking at the broader implications we can enforce this notion. A good example would be the game assigned for this week: Pong. While DDR focused on different physical platforms (arcade cabinet to home console or PC), Pong goes in between software platforms all the time. The web browser version is different from the original Atari version, which is different from a handheld version or even a touch screen version. While the game itself has not changed, the way you interact with it has and this ultimately leads to a different experience.

When looking at platforms in games, we can easily recognize their importance by looking at multiple variations of games. While DDR is used mostly as an example for different physical platforms, Pong can be used for the software side. This is not meant to say that games only use one platform or another. All games use physical and software platforms to reflect certain experiences. It solely depends on the emphasis for the particular game.

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