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Welcome to the Dance Dance Revolution

Perhaps the best use of techno music ever to come out of Japan, Dance Dance Revolution has inspired a, well, revolution of sorts among teenagers and video game fanatics.

Take a trip to an arcade -- personally, I've seen this at the Regal Transit -- and you're sure to see people crowded around the DDR machine, performing a crazy succession of steps, hoping to match their movements with the arrows on the screen and pass onto the next level.

The game is set up to allow single or double-person play as well as a double-mat feature, with one player alternating between the mats. Choose a level (beginner, light, standard, or heavy) and a song, and you're off!

DDR has become hugely popular, and there are now numerous variations of the game -- DDRMax and DDRExtreme are two of them, each with two discs -- and anyone with a home gaming system can buy mats to play the games at home, allowing even more people to get into the DDR mania and play more.

A few schools have latched on to the Dance Dance Revolution craze, creating DDR clubs for students.

Nardin Academy seniors Sarah Flak and Sarah Wettlaufer came up with an idea for the club while playing the game one day. "We noticed how much fun everyone was having participating in it, and we thought it would be a club that many people would be excited about," says Wettlaufer.

After approaching the school about such a club, the girls got the OK to start the club during the 2005-2006 school year; the response has been overwhelming. A record 185 students showed up for the signup, making it the most popular club at Nardin, they said. There are girls from all four grades in the club, all at different levels of skill and play regarding the game. "DDR united the school," says Nardin senior Danielle Dvorak.

Nichols also began a DDR club this year after seniors Anthony Montesano and Malcom Kim had been playing the game a lot at home and before cross-country practices. "We thought 'Gee, wouldn't it be really cool if we could do this after school?' And we needed staff approval, but Mr. Potter, one of the teachers, is so cool that we ran it by him and he said he'd approve it," says Kim. "It just sort of came together. It turns out there were a bunch of people playing it we didn't even know about, so it sort of worked out."

And while the turnout at Nichols hasn't been as huge as it has been at Nardin -- Kim was shocked when he heard there were almost 200 girls involved at Nardin -- the club is still popular. "Right now it's a really busy time of the year, but in the beginning, we had dozens of people involved," Kim said.

The Nardin DDR club's meetings pit two of eight teams in a battle against each other. Whichever members earn the highest rankings form another team to compete at a higher level later on.

The club is also trying to organize a match against Nichols' DDR team. A match back in the fall did not work out, but Kim says that they might try again.

"I don't know, they might just beat us based on sheer numbers," he says.

So how is it that such a simple game has inspired such a craze? It could be any number of things, from the interactive nature of the game to the laughs you can get out of watching first-timers or uncoordinated friends try their hand at one of the many songs on the game. Flak and Wettlaufer attribute the game's success to its combination of "healthy competition and good clean fun."

"Anyone can play it regardless of skill," say the girls.

Kim wasn't really sure why the game has become so popular all over the country. "I think it's even bigger in Japan," he said. "I guess it's just the kind of thing where you can try it and make a fool out of yourself and have a good time; but then, on higher levels, it's really competitive. It's just fun. We haven't really seen anything like it before."

Many people get really into the game, too; like many video games, it requires concentration, and players have to make sure that little mistakes don't throw them off. Nardin senior Katie Brady says that "DDR isn't just a game, it's a lifestyle!"

One thing's for sure: with all the people interested in the game, the Dance Dance Revolution craze is sure to keep going strong for a long time to come. But if this video game gets those who play it off the couch and interacting with the game in some sort of exercise rather than sitting down and using a game controller to play, that's more than all right. As the Nardin DDR club's motto says, "Viva la Revolution!"

Angela Stefano is a senior at Nardin.


MORE DDR: Time for Kids reports that the state of West Virginia is using Dance Dance Revolution in middle school gym class and after-school programs to get kids moving and battle the state's serious problem with obesity. "If we can get children to change their behavior at a young age they hopefully will grow up to be healthy, active adults," said Carl Callison of Mountain State Blue Cross, a health care company.

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