Dancin' with yourself

"As you approach the Dance Dance Revolution, colored lights flash and techno music blares. A virtual fly girl busts a move and a voice beckons you to get over here and dance. The machine's slick allure is tough to ignore.The game arrived at the Silver Coin Fun Factory arcade in the Kitsap Mall about two months ago from Japan. Judging by the crowds of teens who gather around to watch friends and competitors dance, it's a hit.After school you can't even get near the machine - you have to walk around this way, said Ed Spencer, manager of the arcade, as he pointed to an alternate route around the game room.Manufactured by Konami, the game lets players demonstrate not only coordination, but also fitness. When you dance you see how hard it is - I myself couldn't last 30 seconds, said Ronald Pak, owner of the Silver Coin. Pak paid $16,000 for the latest version of Dance Dance Revolution. He says it will pay for itself in about a year.I usually only spend about $4 on the machine but I have friends who pay $15, $20, $30 to play, said Norman Arciaga, a 15-year-old Ridgetop Junior High student. One dollar buys three rounds, but able-footed dancers can earn credits by hitting all the notes correctly, extending the time of play. Gamers can select their level of play and choose from more than 100 techno and pop tunes. Spencer has set out a roll of paper towels nearby as players often step off the machine drenched in sweat. It's interesting to note that Dance Dance Revolution escapes the common criticisms that video games promote lethargy, obesity and violence among young people. I met a 19-year-old-guy who had slimmed down about 20 pounds by playing the machine every day - you sweat a lot, Pak said.The combination of the crowd the game attracts and the automated voice that calls out you're too cool, awesome technique and you're a dancing machine create a positive vibe that likely has contributed to the game's success.It's a way kids can compete against each other - it draws a crowd around them and makes them feel good, Spencer said.Up to two players can stand on the elevated platform to play. Competitors watch the screen and when arrows light up on the psychedelic background, players must touch corresponding arrows with their feet. To add spice, some players drop and hit the squares with their hands.You've just got to be active and have good rhythm, said Arciaga, who plays Dance Dance Revolution about four times a week. The most difficult steps, he says, are triples, or three steps in quick succession, and off-beats.While informal contests are a frequent event at the arcade, Pak and Spencer said they have been approached by groups of teens who want to use the machine for organized dance tournaments. Spencer said the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila likely will host a tournament soon, and if it is successful another might be scheduled at the Kitsap Mall. "

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