Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dance Video Games

If you've never had the pleasure of experiencing a dance video game, you might wonder how dancing and gaming fit together.

Surprisingly well, it turns out. Even if you have very little sense of "natural rhythm," and would be embarrassed to be caught out on the dance floor or even in a dance class, you can learn to play and enjoy the various versions of dance games that are available on the market today.

So how exactly did the dance video game come about? Surprisingly, it happened before Dance Dance Revolution was released by Konami in 1998. It turns out that Dance Aerobics, which utilized a pad connected to the Nintendo gaming system as a user input device, was the true start of the genre when it hit the markets in 1989 (per GameFaqs, via Wikipedia). A certain segment of the Nintendo-owning population enjoyed this game, but the necessity of buying the floor-pad limited the appeal to a generation of gamers who simply couldn't put as much money into their habit as people do today.

There's no question, though, that DDR can be credited with starting the transformation that turned the dance gaming genre into the powerhouse it is today. And after the brand re-introduced dance pads, this time for all of the major gaming consoles, dance gaming seemed poised to enter homes across the country.

The only problem was that people who owned consoles at the time tended to be hardcore gamers, and dancing wasn't something a majority of hardcore gamers were into. Therefore, it wasn't until the release of the Nintendo Wii in 2006 that dance games in the home really became a marketable trend. The handheld motion controller created a more intuitive movement environment than standard handheld controllers, helping to get casual gamers and kids in on the dance game action more than ever before. Not to be outdone, PlayStation followed with its own Move controller in 2009.

Everyone has their favorites in the dance game genre, but there's no question that Microsoft's release of the Kinect hands-free motion controller in 2010 is what made the dance video game into something truly wonderful. The Kinect doesn't limit motion detection to the hands or feet; instead, it tracks everything, from head-bopping to hip-swiveling to knee-bending and more. The motion capture technology of the Kinect is so sensitive that it can detect slight variations in dance moves and correct players in real time. And, unlike the dance-pad controllers, the Kinect is compatible with a variety of games outside the dance genre.

There will probably always be a place for traditional dance-pad games, and the Wii provides a great gaming experience. But when it comes to working out, having fun, and learning new whole-body moves, the Kinect is the hands-down winner.

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