The responses to my question about first time experiences with rythm games were overwhelming! So many of you wrote in and shared with me some amazing stories. I really wanted to read some of them on my show during viewer mail, but since most of the stories are a bit long, I thought quoting some of them here might work just as well. I truly loved reading through everyone’s different experiences and I hope you do too!
“Almost three years ago I lived in China, and one day for fun I went to the arcade at a local entertainment complex. There were a lot of good games there, and a lot of strange ones, but one machine stood out to me: it was a drumming game. I don’t remember the name, but it was obviously a knock-off of a game based on Japanese Taiko drumming. I remembered seeing something similar during one scene in “Lost in Translation”. This game gave me such a rush. I would spend at least half an hour at it, maybe more, each of the several times I went to the arcade. I like video games, and I’m musically inclined, so it was exciting to find a place where my too interests could meet. I never got a perfect rating, but I always had a great time, and I would find myself banging silverware and pens on metal cups and tables in my apartment, as the days went by. Fast forward 6-8 months. I moved back to the US and found out there would be Taiko drumming at a local Japanese festival. I showed up and was impressed with the concert not just because it was a good show, but because I knew that drumming was now lodged in my fingers forever, and I had to join. So I went up to ask and was told I could join the group. I showed up for practice with that one rhythm game my only drumming experience and was quickly inducted into the ranks of the group. Fast forward 2 years, I am now an amateur performer, I have helped to produce 2 professional shows, I’m on the board of directors of our performance group, and I met my girlfriend of almost one year through drumming. All because of a rhythm game. Well, of course, not really directly through a rhythm game, but it had an influence. It woke something up inside of me.” – Joe, Santa Fe, New Mexico
I wanted to email you today about my first rhythm game experience. It was during my freshman year of college. One day I went to the video arcade in my mall to see a friend of mine who worked there during my lunch break to find him playing the new DDR machine they had just gotten. It was place right at the front of the arcade to show it off and attract customers. At first, I was intimidated by watching him jump all over the dance pad with some of our friends, so I decided not to play and just watch. It was interesting, but I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself in front of people. A few weeks later, I was having a really bad time at school. I was all out of sorts with it being my first time at college and it was starting to drain me. I couldn’t concentrate on the project I was working on, so I drove out to the mall to take a breather. I stumbled into the video arcade to find my friend working. He saw that I was in a bad mood and offered to play a game with me to cheer me up. The DDR machine was open, and no one was in the arcade at the time, so I decided to give it a try. I popped in my four quarters and choose a song. I did horribly. I got angry and was ready to storm out of the arcade when my friend stopped me. He told me I just choose a hard song and that I should try again. He walked behind the counter and got the DDR machine’s coin box key. He went up to the machine, opened the coin box, and flipped the coin switch a few times, giving me a few free games. He said to practice and see if I could do better. Not wanting to go back to the dorm, I started to play. He pointed out a couple of easy songs for me and then went back to work. I was starting to get better by the end of the first hour and continued to play for another hour. He came back later and saw I was feeling better. He opened up the coin box again and gave me more free games. I told him not too, but he just smiled and said it was ok. So I stayed for the next three hours playing DDR. Everytime I ran out of games, he would come by and give me a few tokens or open up the coin box again so I could play some more. At one point, I stopped to take a break and turned around to find a crowd of at least twenty people watching me play through the glass windows at the front of the arcade. By the time the arcade closed for the night, I had gotten pretty good at the game and was feeling a lot better. I thanked my friend and headed back to the dorms to finish my project. Ever since then, I have been addicted to DDR and rhythm games. I lost track of my old friend at the arcade when he stopped working there and I moved away to a new college, but whenever I go by that old arcade back home, I see that old DDR machine there and can’t help but play one game, just for old times sake. – GumbyX
“I first encountered music games later on when I took the dive and ordered my first Dance Dance Revolution set. I played musical instruments for most of my school time, so for me it was an easy pick up. My children (8, 5, and 3) are another matter. But they’ve been useful in teaching them rhythm – they get the songs pretty easily, they learn about coordination, and they have fun, like when Dad has to hold the three year old up on a higher difficulty level when I dance against my daughter with the song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. From there, I started finding every rhythm game I could find. I really got hooked when I picked up “Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!” for the Nintendo DS. My daughter and I played the heck out of that one, and it was amusing when she was 6 and telling her teacher in school about the “boy cheerleaders with scars and trenchcoats who dance for justice!” My other favorite is “DJ Max Portable” for the PSP – some good songs there, and frantic action. I think a lot of the issue with rhythm games is like any other challenge for a non-gamer: timing. My lovely wife can play the piano, but she can hardly play Dance Dance Revolution. My 5 year old son has the same problems playing Zelda as he has playing Guitar Hero – but as he plays, he starts to understand how the patterns work. Hopefully when he gets older and it’s time for him to pick up an instrument (a requirement and tradition in my family), that time playing games will have prepared his reflexes and memory. Thankfully, by Daddy only getting games high on text, my children already read far above their grade level. Yes, Daddy is a sneaky, sneaky man . From what I’ve seen of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, it seems to have hit a common cord in a lot of non-gamers. Everyone can at least move a bit to a beat, and most of us know how to sing (and those that don’t go audition for American Idol). I’m willing to bet these type of games will always be with us, and I’m looking forward to new ideas. (I’m still hoping someone makes that Ouendan meets Space Invaders game I think would be a hoot.)” -John
“Well you wanted to know my opinion on rhythm games, so here goes. I would like to preface this by staying that I am terrible at all types of rhythm games, but have noticed a pattern in them. The people who are really good at these games are the same people who are really good at reaction games (crossfire, Simon, spit, etc.). My theory which I am currently trying to prove is that these people like to have the action come to them rather than going to the action. In a game like contra you are in complete control of when enemies come running out by moving as slowly or as quickly as you want and reacting at your own pace. While in a rhythm game there is one speed, where it cannot speed up and cannot slow down and you need to keep pace no matter what. One wrong move and you need to recover without missing a step. Many people simply cannot do that, but if you can then you can impress a lot of people.” – Coldguy
“My first rhythm game I ever played was Dance Dance Revolution way back in 1999. I used to watch a lot of Japanese television news shows that were in English, and we had one here in Canada called Hello Japan (i think it was called Hello japan), and they pretty much covered what was neat and interesting in Japan. And thats when I first discovered DDR. Lucky for me, it wasn’t soon after that broadcast that a local arcade got the first DDR machine in Canada. After this happened I skipped a whole lot of school!! At the time I had never played anything else like it, I was an avid fighting game fanatic (Killer Instinct, Street Fighter, King of Fighters) it was difficult, but on the easy levels it wasn’t too hard. From there me and my friends would download step sheets from the internet so we could memorize steps and we got pretty good on our own. At the time, nobody at the arcade was even touching DDR. People couldn’t figure out how to play it, what the point of the game was. They would just crowd around us and watch. I made lots of friends from playing DDR, so many that there wasn’t a single day I walked into the arcade that I didn’t know half a dozen kids who were waiting around the DDR machine. The new kids to the game so we spent alot of time teaching people how to play, or played with them to keep them alive so they could practice. This was basically and every day thing for months, until all of us became a DDR crew, (as sad as that sounds looking back). We basically mastered DDR, we could play every song on any difficulty and get perfect scores every time, play double mode, and some of us even could play backwards without looking at the screen. The great thing about this arcade was that it not only had DDR, but it had Guitar Freaks, and Beatmania. So I grew to love those games as well. With the popularity of DDR growing, a lot of us in the group would go to different arcades which got DDR machines and we’d go there to test our skills against different arcade DDR crews. We held tournaments, it was a pretty memorable time for gaming for me. I don’t play much DDR anymore, I think I personally outgrew the game many years ago. It got to a point where a new version would come out, and we’d all pick the most extreme song right away, and we could beat it without any hesitations. So to me the challenge went away. However if I even attempt to play DDR these days, I feel winded and tired after the first song.. Maybe it’s my old age catching up to me, I’m not as chipper as I was when I was a teenager.. Mind you 12 hour long days at the arcade playing DDR were pretty normal back then.. (no lie 12 hour days playing DDR). These days, I still play the occasional game of Guitar Freaks, I own the guitar controller for PS2 and it shocked me when Guitar Hero game out, and how popular it was.. Considering nobody had even herd of Guitar Freaks (I know it’s a Japanese game, but nobody had a clue) I have beatmania, but I’m a novice player at best. I’ve seen some real beasts on Beatmania. I’ve played para-para paradise in Arcades, this was during the DDR era. Para Para dancing was very popular in japan (its like a choreographed dance to a song, and each song has it’s own dance, way to much memorization for my liking) so the game was based on the actual dance moves to the songs.. I find most people who played Para Para in North America didn’t realize that actual dance moves were to be done rather than just hitting the “notes or beats” on target. DanceManiaX was also a great beat game, that is rarely remembered, this game was kinda like para para except it was 4 sensors 2 on top, and 2 on the bottom of these saucer shaped discs in front of you. and the point was to hover your hand above or below the sensor rather than doing steps like in DDR you just waved your hands over sensors. Very fun, very short lived. I still have yet to get Guitar Hero or Rock band, still I think I’d prefer Guitar Freaks, and Drum Mania. I do find those games to be much more difficult than the American rhythm games. The rhythm genre is definitely my favorite these days, weather it’s Taiko Drum master, DJ Max, Guitar Hero, I find these games are easy to pick up and have fun with and anybody can really enjoy them, weather or not you are a novice or a expert. Unlike fighting games of FPS, (which I still play very often) really if you aren’t very good at them, it’s hard to enjoy a game where you are losing all the time.” – Bahzad
“Gitaroo Man is such a classic, yet it’s greatness is almost forgotten in a world of seemingly never-ending first person shooters, driving and fighting clones. I actually discovered Gitaroo Man in my local library where you can rent PS2 games for a week at a time – it was free back then, but I think you have to pay a few pence / cents now (but still great value). I found it really reinvented the rhythm action gameplay, the way you used timing in each aspect of the fight – and the use of the analog stick was perfect, albeit a bit strange and difficult to start off with. I agree with you on The Legendary Theme – it’s a great piece of music, and in both versions I felt really emotional when I played it (and the game really makes you feel like you’re playing it, which is great!). Very challenging at times (which can be frustrating), but take a break and relax, and when you finally beat the level you really feel like you’ve achieved something! Even though I completed it in the week I rented it, I still went out to buy my own copy, and always urge my friends to try it so they don’t miss out. Back in the late 80′s and early 90′s I loved the button mashing gameplay of the Olympics and sports games, but when I played PaRappa The Rapper I knew I’d found my calling – this is the first proper rhythm action game I can remember playing, and it seems to be the one that launched the whole genre. To this day I will still fire it up for a few laughs, and I can still remember the words to all the songs off by heart! Surprisingly though I didn’t like it’s sequel, nor UmJammer Lammy – they just didn’t feel like they had the same spark. Since then I’ve sought after these types of games far and wide – some of my favourites being Elite Beat Agents, Vib-Ribbon and Space Channel 5 – if you’ve not played of any of these then I’d definitely recommend you check them out!” – Graham, Liverpool, UK
“My first try at Rhythm Games was a demo of Parrapa The Rappa on the PSX when it first came out. My brother was amazing at it, but whenever I tried, I could barely make it past the first verse or so in the introductory level. I felt extremely frustrated, and though I did come back to it at times, I didn’t progress much. I also tried Um Jammer Lammy when it first came out, but I had the same negative experience. I haven’t played a rhythm-based game since then for a long time, but when games such as DDR and Guitar Hero have suddenly taken gamers by storm, I was rather surprised. I decided to try Guitar Hero 3 at a party a few months ago. I was immediately addicted to it, and found the game to handle a whole lot better than Parrapa and Lammy. But in the end, despite the fun and excitement of the game, I honestly feel that if I am to play music, I’d rather learn on a real instrument – not of a controller on a video game.” – Danag