Freestyle Freakout

A brief commentary on Dance Central this evening, since it’s late and it happens to be the only game I actually played today. We had guests over for dinner and, despite everyone’s better instincts, we put it in the Xbox and all took turns dancing to tracks like “Maneater” and “Hey Mami”.

There is so much to say about the sight of four grown-ups standing in a stylish Danish home doing crazy clubbing dance moves and commenting on each other’s brilliance. But I don’t have it all sorted out in my head just yet, so I’ll hold back on that for now.

What I did want to at least register my interest in is the Dance Central Freestyle phenomenon. Basically, each time you perform a song you do a bunch of system-defined dance moves which are judged (largely as “correct” or “incorrect”) by the system. That’s how you get your points etc. But in the middle of all this, almost always completely unexpected, it suddenly brings up the word “Freestyle!” and the screen changes to trippy lines with a 3D model of your body in the centre of it.

And then you dance your ass off. Kind of. In actuality what every since one of us did was break into some of the most ridiculous flailing we could think of. As if we were purposefully trying to deny the idea that we might dance for ourselves in the free-style section of the dancing game we were playing. It wasn’t standing still, but it was still, in some ways, the negation of dancing, normally thought of as at least some kind of organised movement.

I find it really interesting that this was our reaction, and I suspect that many or most players of Dance Central do the same thing. It must have a lot to do with sheer performance anxiety, and that’s something that the game weirdly facilitates. You spend almost all your time with the game telling you exactly which move to do, and then telling you if you did it right. To suddenly be thrust into a situation where you’re allowed to do anything is kind of frightening.

And so is the response. Goodnight.

8 December 2010
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