When I lived in Japan, one of the thrills of the weekend (cheap thrills, to be sure) was to go to the local Japanese video arcade and see the throngs of Japanese teens dancing “Padda Padda,” as I recall the game was called, or as we call it here, “Dance Dance Revolution.” Since then, the craze has crossed the Pacific and invaded American shores.
A 5-year-old Padda Padda star (“Sugoi!” (“Cool!”))
As this New York Times article makes clear, the J-pop / Japanese cultural invasion continues. (And I love that it does.) Children in Morgantown, West Virginia are now shakin’ their booties to the pulsating beats of J-pop in middle school gym classes, with the full endorsement of the school administration and staff.
Apparently West Virginia, which has one of the highest childhood obsesity rates in the US, looked for an innovative solution to the ill health of its young’uns and found one that works, gratis Land of the Rising Sun. West Virginia has 185 middle schools currently using Dance Dance Revolution, and will have the game installed in all 765 of its public schools by 2008. Hawaii and California are other states heavily pushing the game as a solution for childhood obesity.
The Times cites a Mayo Clinic study from 2006 that found that “children playing Dance Dance Revolution expended significantly more energy than children watching television and playing traditional video games.” After installing the games and dancemats in hundreds of schools across 10 states, the Times reports, word on the street is that the solution is working. The plan is to have the physically demanding videogames installed in 1500 schools by 2010.
I love video games, and I’m concerned greatly about US childhood obesity — is this the holy grail? We’re going to have to see some more studies, but it might be. My main concern is that the game might be a little like energetic line-dancing, but it’s not a team sport — it’s competing against the computer, and it’s not a contact sport. This might be good, as many are saying, as a stepping stone towards interest in physical fitness, but it’s just that. As a stepping stone, though, why not? Sounds good to me. I might buy a copy for those special little kids in my life and show’em just how good a dancer HL is.