clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The unspeakable horror of Just Dance 2014

New, 24 comments

Stuck at the base of a human pyramid, I contemplate the possibility that this is, perhaps, the lowest point of my career in video games journalism.

The people-pyramid includes some professional dancers, a producer and a few PR people from Microsoft. We are demonstrating how Ubisoft's Just Dance 2014 and Kinect with Xbox One is able to accommodate six people at once, is able to track and distinguish each individual within this wobbling pile of humanity.

I decide that, no, there have been too many lows over the decades for this to qualify as the absolute lowest. These are all jolly nice people and we're simulating 'having fun.' It's not so bad. But then I am invited to dance along to the music of a band of warbling schoolboys calling themselves One Direction and finally I am forced to admit that I have hit rock bottom.

Dancing is not my thing, unless I'm at a wedding and have reached the point of inebriation in which any bonkers activity seems reasonable. Wiggle my body in a way that physically approximates "Come on Eileen"? Sure, why not. I just got done snorting Pernod and flirting with a rubber plant, so I'm game for any larks.

The notion of dancing sober, of gyrating sensually in your front room, of endlessly practicing and perfecting the moves, of doing this in front of other people, is perverse.

But I am a man of the world, and I understand that for many people, this is the very definition of a good time. I have seen the television commercials in which attractive young people of diverse backgrounds and good fashion sense come together in a nice apartment, and show off their nice hair while they 'get into the groove' and thereto doubtless progress to 'getting lucky.'

As I dance to One Direction's "Kiss You," I notice that my side-steps, arm-swings and saucy body-swerves are not entirely keeping up with those of my co-dancers. The producer, the PR reps and certainly the dancers are doing it right, and on the screen, above their slender silhouettes, statistics register a rapid accumulation of points, while my porky, heaving shadow accrues progress like a schoolroom clock.

As we trip the light fantastic, we cross one another's paths, do goofy little moves with each other. The Kinect watches. It does not miss a beat. On screen there are still six individual avatars and they are all doing the same things that we are doing.

This is a party game in which as few people as possible are required to sit on couches awaiting their turn because as many as possible are on the floor. And in the reality of parties, doing something that everyone else is doing, like dancing or throwing up or stealing the crockery, is always easier than doing anything that will make you stand out.

This is why six people playing at once is a technical achievement and a social one. It is designed to break down the barriers, to heave middle-aged chaps out of their comfy high-backed chairs, away from the bottle of Cognac stuffed under a cushion, and onto the area previously occupied by the coffee table, where the young and the lithe are cutting rugs.

To Ubisoft, this is an advance in the affairs of human relations. I am not so sure.