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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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A day in the life of a DDR player

You may have seen Ryan Swartz before.

Popping into the Union computer lab to print off a paper or picking up a pizza at Zza’s @ Night, you probably passed by the arcade.

And inside may have been Swartz and his friends – not shooting aliens or controlling martial artists, but dancing.

They’re dancing on a “Dance Dance Revolution” unit, a rhythm-based game that requires players to hit floor pads with their feet to the beat of a song and it’s among the most popular attractions at the arcade.

Swartz, a freshman, is a regular. He stops by in between classes and, he says, plays three to four games of DDR throughout the day.

“It’s fun,” Swartz says. “It’s a video game that requires more than just your finger movements – it’s addicting.”

DDR allows for two players to compete head-to-head, which Swartz says gives him a challenge – a “friendly” one, he qualifies.

The friendliness is an important detail. DDR – and video games in general – may not be all about personal challenges.

Swartz plays other video games at home, such as the shoot ’em-up “Halo 2,” which he plays with others.

“Not all we do is stare at the screen,” he says. “We’ll maybe play one game and then start talking. … We’ll play games on and off.”

That sense of community transfers to the arcade, where people gather every day to talk, get homework out of the way and, of course, play games.

“They’re a fun hobby,” Swartz says. “Like other people play baseball, video games are mine.”

Despite the musical nature of DDR, Swartz doesn’t sing or play an instrument.

“I used to hate music class in elementary school,” he says. “I gained my sense of rhythm from [this] game.”

That sense of rhythm didn’t begin to develop until Swartz was in eighth grade. That year, his sister received the home version of DDR for Christmas.

“She played it for a while and then got bored of it,” he says. “So I started playing it and I liked it.”

All those years of practice shine through the way he plays now.

Swartz, with an air of professionalism, steps on the floor of the DDR unit where four arrows – up, down, left, right – label the game’s inputs.

As a fast-paced techno song blasts out of the unit’s large speakers, on-screen arrows fly from the bottom to the top of the display past markers indicating when the player should step on the appropriate arrow pad.

Swartz hits each direction, no matter how quickly they come, with ease and precision.

After the song finishes, he takes a breather while the game displays a rating of his performance – he gets an A, which is second only to a perfect score, AAA.

“You have to kind of enjoy dancing,” Swartz said.

“I keep asking myself, why is it fun? But it just is. When you get right down to it, it’s just four arrows floating to the top of the screen.”

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