Friday, December 18, 2009

Just Dance

Oh, I really shouldn't let Marcee's gay friends find out about this one.  This dance game could become the ultimate Charlie Bait, heh I right on that, sweetheart?

There are many fitness, exercise and dance games on the Nintendo Wii, and it appears this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.  It's the one area where third-party software developers have created solid titles for the Wii's Expanded Audience (I'm stealing Sean Malstrom's phrase here).

Just Dance has been building a buzz online, and if Amazon and the local Target is any indication, this newly-released game may become a hit.  It will also drive another wedge between the self-proclaimed "hardcore" gamers who write for the videogame press, and the Expanded Audience.  This really isn't much of a video game at all; it's an excuse to cut loose and have some fun.  And this game openly proclaims this - Just Dance!

Finally, we have the video game's answer to the iPod commercials.  That's all it really is.  You hold the Wii Remote and follow along to the crazy dancing on the screen.  Ubisoft proclaims that professional dancers were consulted during development, and the videos look terrific.

"Hardcore" gamers would point out that all you're really doing is shaking your Wiimote in various positions.  You don't really need to be swinging your arms and shaking those hips.  But, then, that's the whole point.  Konami all but created music rhythm games with their Dance Dance Revolution series, but those have always been arcade games at its core, with all the conventions of classic arcade video games - high scores, combos, ramping difficulty, risk and reward.  That's necessary for a machine that runs on quarters, and this is how the competitive nature of games evolved.

But those conventions are not necessary in the home, where you own the game for life.  Such arcade trappings may feel restrictive to those outside the scene, especially women and girls.  Boys want competition, conquest, and achievable goals.  Girls just wanna have fun (or is that, "girls just wanna have lunch?").  And as the Wii market continues to expand to females, we will see more pure gaming experiences - the training wheels will come off the bike.

There's no need to squeeze dancing into an established set of rules; you can just dance and have fun.  This is the same spirit of immediacy that Nintendo brought to Wii Sports and Wii Music (especially Wii Music), and we're seeing this emerge in the fitness titles.  There's no reason why this spirit cannot continue to spread.

Just Dance - is there a more perfect and honest title in a game?  Ubisoft can be frustrating in their games so much of the time, but once in a blue moon, they get it.  They just get it.  Maybe the software community needed some time to understand the new audiences; they didn't know who these people are or what we want, so we were hit with a snobbish, Comic Book Guy slur - "casual" gamers.  The result was a pile of terrible, C-budget games that entertained no one and tanked at retail.

I think in regards to the fitness games, the developers are finally starting to understand, and we're getting much better games.  We're also getting new games, new kinds of games, new expressions.  Why can't you just splash around in the pool outside Mario's castle?  Why can't you just jam on musical instruments and create your own songs?  Why can't you exercise like you do at the gym?  Why can't you have fun for the sake of having fun?  Just Dance.

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