One thing I’ve always done is keep lists – whether to serve as records of accomplishment or reminders of other times, going back through my old diary entries is entertaining, if nothing else than for the number of “top 10” or “top 20” or “my best X” lists that keep popping up over the years.

In the early 2000s, an arcade game called Dance Dance Revolution was all the rage. Instead of using a hand-held controller, players “danced” and were judged based on how accurately and timely they hit various notes with their feet. Now there are dozens of games in this musical game genre, including the very popular Rock Band series, but for me it all started with Dance Dance Revolution (3rd mix), which was installed at a local laser tag place.

Through DDR I met many people, traveled the Bay Area, and had a great community of fellow players unlike anything else I had at school. For years the hardest songs were rated “Catastrophic” difficulty – a whopping 9 out of 9 stars. These were the cream of the crop, and nobody would take you seriously on the dance pad unless you could show some serious moves with these difficult tracks.

I recently found a list of all of the catastrophic-level songs I ever passed, and it makes me laugh that I also included the date in which I first passed them. Honestly these were true accomplishments of the day, both of foot-eye coordination and endurance, let alone musical timing. I can’t remember the last time I seriously played DDR – well over a decade ago now, and I know I couldn’t do even a single one of these at that difficulty, but knowing that I did, once, it makes me smile.

  1. Kakumei [2002-12] – this song is actually based on Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude,” I later discovered
  2. The Saints go Marching [2003-01-02]
  3. Can’t Stop Falling in Love (Speed Mix) [2003-01-31]
  4. Tsugaru [2003-02-20]
  5. Healing Vision (Angelic Mix) [2003-02-25] – this song still gives me anxiety as the beat hastens
  6. Dead End [2003-05-01]
  7. Dynamite Rave [2003-05-06]
  8. Legend of Maxx [2003-05-09] – one of the only “Medium” difficulty songs rated 9 stars
  9. Orion ,78 [2003-05-11]
  10. Irrestiblement [2003-05-14] – Nope, didn’t misspell that one
  11. Insertion [2003-05-15]
  12. Paranoia Rebirth [2003-05-16]
  13. My Summer Love [2003-05-20]
  14. Masuri Japan [2003-05-22]
  15. Captain Jack [2003-05-22]
  16. Broken my Heart [2003-05-22]
  17. I Feel … [2003-05-22]
  18. Witch Doctor [2003-05-23]
  19. Drop Out [2003-06-05]
  20. Paranoia KCET Clean Mix [2003-07-16]
  21. End of the Century [2003-08-22]
  22. Be Lovin’ [2003-10-16]
  23. Stay [2003-10-18]
  24. Sweet Sweet Love Magic [2003-10-18]
  25. Dance Dance Revolution [2003-10-25]
  26. Frozen Ray (For Extreme) [2003-10-25]
  27. BreAkdown [2003-11-03]

There was one song which was my White Whale, that being So Deep – DDR aficionados would later claim that it should have been the first 10-star song, but it was released before ratings got that high. It has a very catchy beat and I really like the mood it evokes, but there are an absolutely insane number of off-beat arrows and galloping sections I just could never get down.

Playing Dance Dance Revolution both as a social activity and as a way to push myself felt really good, and I think was a good use of my time. Besides, burning a few thousand calories isn’t a bad way to enjoy a visit to the arcade! Reflecting on the above, and watching some of the videos, I’m still amazed that I was able to accomplish all of the above.