Recently, I’ve given a lot of thought to the kinds of games I’m drawn toward as a gamer. It didn’t take long to realize I really enjoy puzzle games, racing games, and rhythm games. I also enjoy a good adventure game, but the adventure games I enjoy tend to replace grinding with puzzles. This really came home for me at PAX because the games I was most drawn toward trying out were the rhythm games.
The problem with rhythm games is that they can easily be set up as performance situations. And my stage performance days are far, far behind me. And shyness and stage fright both settled in when I was a teenager. As an adult, I was much happier if I could hide buried somewhere in a corps de ballet…which is how I kept ending up doing demi-soloist and character work.
But the FragDolls (very friendly bunch of girls I’d hoped to meet) were showing off Just Dance 2, and my inner dancer couldn’t resist. I volunteered to go up on the stage, struggled to decode some of the symbols telling us what to do, and ended up winning my little round. Trying out Dance Central on the Kinect was far less stressful. It was just a kiosk with the people in line…and Dustin with his camera. I bravely tried a dance I’d seen an earlier person do on medium, and nearly aced it. It was a lot of fun.
The difference between the two, if you’re interested, is that Just Dance 2 is on the Wii, so it uses the Wiimote to track your arm movements (thankfully, because I couldn’t get the feet right in one section), while Dance Central is on the Kinect, which has no controller and tracks your entire movement. You read that right: the Kinect has no controller. You gesture to navigate the menus and to play the game. You also have to move in a small space, because if you step out of it, the game assumes you’ve left and pauses. Both are a pretty decent workout, though.
Before PAX, I’d made it my mission to defeat the Endless Setlist on Rock Band 2 (which I did), and my roommate got it into his head that he was going to get me up on the big Rock Band stage at PAX (he failed). We had passed a Rock Band 3 stage in the Expo Hall, though, and so Saturday morning when nearly no one was around, I agreed to give it a go. We had a nearly full band (six people), and the other vocalist was really nice. The guys running the stage told us that I had the lead mic and she had the harmonies mic, and then didn’t tell us what lines to follow. We had to sort that out ourselves…standing back to back. But the crowd started growing, and my voice started shrinking. One of the guys working had to jump in and encourage me to sing louder in his own cool way. So I was fine…right up until a local news camera appeared right on the other side of my monitor. And my voice faded again, and the guy saved me again. In the middle of all this, the woman at the next booth over had noticed the vocalists were both women and got on the PA to call people over. And there was nowhere to hide.
At the end of the song, I admitted to the guy who’d been encouraging me that I do suffer from stage fright, and that was terrifying for me. So he drummed up some crowd sympathy for me, because I’d actually done fairly well despite wishing for over half the song I hadn’t had that brief moment of courage stupidity and he gave me a little keychain for hanging in there. The other vocalist and I chatted afterwards, and she was also very encouraging. But we were both concerned because we’d been handed expert parts without any say in the matter.
I had the opportunity to talk to someone at the Harmonix booth later on, and he admitted that’s a feature of the full band mode. (It’s not a “feature” if it puts you on a level you aren’t comfortable with. Just sayin’…) He also told me that RB3 will save your level so you don’t have to mess with it every single song. But I do change my level based on the song. I don’t sight read on Expert if I don’t have to. I told him that. He sputtered for a moment, and then said, “Wow. You actually have some technique.” And we chatted a bit longer before I went to find my roommate again (and to allow him to pick his jaw back up off the floor. I had no idea it was such a big deal. I thought it was just my own shaky self-confidence at play.)