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#OneCoolThing: Daria Radu

#OneCoolThing: Daria Radu

Header image: Just Dance Presskit.

Editor's note: Welcome our latest post in a regular series where we invite members of our team to talk about One Cool Thing (not necessarily from games) and if/how it influences/reflects on their work. While we're not able to talk about the exciting things we're working on right now, we hope this will be a nice little series of introductions to the interests & practices of our excellent team.

Here's our brilliant programmer Daria Radu who's going to talk a little bit about DANCING GAMES. For previous articles in this series, check out story tech Florence Smith-Nicholl's on Environmental Storytelling and Archeology, tech lead Katrin-Anna Zibuschka on Co-operative Experiences, deputy tech lead Roxanne van Dam on "Doing the Disco", writer Harry Josephine Giles on Brave Sparrow, writer Sharna Jackson on Joana Choumali, tech artist Angus Dick on Fantastic Planet, creative producer Ben Wilson on Leaderboards, and our outgoing story lead Char Putney on Randomness.

Dancing Games

There is always a slight surprise in some people’s faces when I tell them that I, a software engineer, dance. I have definitely danced more than I have programmed in my life, and it has always been my safe and comforting space. It is my favourite means of expressing myself creatively (though to be clear, I do not do this professionally, you won't see me at your local dance competition any time soon!).

Dancing has always been a part of who I am, how I work and how I live. My childhood birthday parties regularly included a dance competition, my favourite reality show was the Romanian version of “Dancing with the Stars”, and my favourite movie series was the Step Up series. So when one day my mother brought home “this dancing game she heard of” for the Nintendo Wii, it marked the beginning of a long journey of mastering dance games. The game was Just Dance 1.

Just Dance 1 - Gameplay video of "Wannabe" by Spice Girls

Therefore, to no surprise to anyone, my most played video game(series) of all time is the Just Dance series.

Games using motion sensor controls have consistently prevailed in my favourites list, making my most used consoles the Nintendo Wii, followed by the current Nintendo Switch. The basis of Just Dance is simple. Hold a controller in your hand and follow the moves showing up on the screen. You can play it alone or locally together with your friends. But there is something very specific that makes the Just Dance series work, and for me, it's the multitude of variants in which you can play the game and make it your own.

Pick Up and Play

First of all, it has a low entry point. At the point of writing, Just Dance is available on most consoles, even a PC variant - if there is a lack of controller, the game allows you to use your smartphone as one, making the game easy to spin up at any gathering. And I highly recommend doing it. I have amazing memories tied to combinations of songs and friends (none of them dancers) that are unforgettable - from my American friend waking up from his chair to burst into dance as soon as we hit play on “Cotton Eyed Joe”, to the yearly tradition of dancing the Just Dance Rasputin” version every New Year’s Eve, and more recently of me and my best friend’s Christmas sessions of “Make It Jingle”.

Second of all, the game is an adversarial game. Everyone is scored individually on how well they follow the moves presented to them. And yet - it never feels like a competition. The feeling of several people dancing in the same room, at the same time, maybe even doing a group dance (in a duo/trio/quartet setting), always creates a sense of entertainment that I have not yet found in another game. As the scores update live during the dance, you get the occasional shout of “Ha! I passed you!”, and when the song ends and we maybe even get an unexpected winner, we rejoice and move on to the next song, while the “fight” of the previous song is left behind.

Third of all, it works as a solo game too (or at least for me, as a dancer). I love the hype I get from the characters in the game. And I love challenging my own scores and trying to do better as I learn the dances. My favourite challenge I have created for myself was to dance “blindfolded” and see how much I can score by what I remember of the dance.

The game works because its main rule is so simple, meaning it leaves so much room for people to create their own game-within-the-game. Or even just dance together without having to come up with the moves themselves. So I recommend everyone to play a dancing game at least once in their life. It’s an experience that sticks - and that you co-create.

Lastly, the making of Just Dance is actually really impressive. It “cross-stitches” together many threads of art and engineering (as games often do), and it always innovates: from eccentric costumes, to new choreographies, to motion capture turned into 3D models. One of the unexpected aspects of their game making is their collaboration with the Inspira Stop Motion studio, which most recently resulted into a fully stop motion animated dance sequence of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr Blue Sky” that you can see in Just Dance 2022.

Behind the scenes animation timelapse of "Mr. Blue Sky" from Just Dance 2022

To end this on a cheesy quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”

So take out your favourite console and start dance-gaming!

CEO and Creative Lead at Die Gute Fabrik, Writer and Narrative Designer on Mutazione.
More posts by Hannah Nicklin
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