20 November 2009

Dance Dance Revolution: The Metaphor

(The DDR story so far: First Encounter, The Beginning, The Journey, The Philosophy)

A couple weeks ago, Havi Brooks of The Fluent Self wrote an intriguing post which inspired my recent DDR series. (Thank you, Havi!) In "You don't need to take the leap," she writes:
I have to say, all the talk about leaps of faith and jumping off cliffs and waiting for nets to appear is … kind of disturbing.

... the most important thing about these kinds of internal cliffs is remembering that they are not cliffs … and then rebuilding the metaphor. Transforming it into something that isn’t so impossibly scary.

...We have more than enough fear to process in our lives already without turning each transition into the kind of experience that throws our nervous systems into panic and terror.

In the comments (well worth a look), people devised new metaphors for themselves. Amy Crook's particularly caught my eye:
This makes me think of hopscotch. Like, when you’re a kid, and you’ve drawn up this whole chalk outline of where you’re going and what you’re going to do next. Then you stand there, and right then you’re just a kid standing on a sidewalk, but then, you jump. And all of a sudden, you’re playing hopscotch, you’re on the path and you can’t get off because you made that first magic jump, and now there’s nothing for it but to keep going.

Even if my chalk outline isn’t perfect, I think it’s about time to jump in with both feet.

The hopscotch metaphor felt familiar somehow even though I never played it much as a kid. I liked the idea of using a game for the transitional metaphor, but the prescribed boxes of hopscotch seemed too concrete to me. I needed something with more flexibility, a free-form hopscotch.

Then it hit me: Dance Dance Revolution. Songs have prescribed step patterns, but there are many ways to accomplish them. It's even possible to add steps without penalty. Making mistakes is no big deal. Even failing provides useful experience in the game, and is often a natural consequence of leveling up.

You get better by playing. You get better faster by playing above your skill level, i.e., challenging your limits. The songs are short, so trying any of them out isn't a big commitment. When part of a song is really difficult, you can slow it down in training mode so you can develop muscle memory. Or you can try an easier difficulty level, or exercise mode which cuts out freeze steps, or another song with another step pattern.

The possibilities are many and varied. Though having too many choices is often a stumbling block for me, the low stakes of a game of DDR make it easier to try things out. Also, it's fun which makes DDR the perfect transitional metaphor for me.

What would yours be?

Three years ago on TTaT: My brain is numb, a post about the overwhelming selection of DDR dance pads available--ha!


  1. I thought of DDR, too, when I was commenting, but it seemed too obscure.

    Another advantage of the DDR metaphor -- if you don't do well on this song, it's okay, because there's always another song!

  2. Ah, good, it's not just me then. I remember to type Dance Dance Revolution out a fair amount of the time, but I do forget that DDR can be obscure for some folks.

    And yes, the variety of songs to choose from is a bonus for the metaphor.