Archive for the ‘Fantasies’ Category

So You Want to Be a DDR King…

January 11, 2008

Or Queen, as the case may be. I was SSSOOO excited when I read FADKOG‘s (who shall henceforth be called “Sugar”) post on her new DDR Super Nova game. I totally got wood! Fortunately I was differentiated enough to remain calm enough and in control to composed a lovely and lengthy comment to that post. Unfortunately Blogger ate the comment.

Fucking Blogger.

Hey, I’m just staying with the theme, here!

Anyway, I knew very, very few of the songs she mentioned. The one by A-Ha being the only one that rang a bell, and Take On Me has limited utility for serious step dancing. But I’m totally thrilled to have someone who is of my 80’s loving generation who is willing to take this game on. So I’m going to pass along a few things I’ve learned along the way and perhaps Sugar’s enthusiasm will result in others taking up the game. Perhaps there could be a resurgence of step dancing game-playing as we combine our health consciousness and video nerdiness with some serious ’80’s tunes. After all, she is seriously cool with a kickass rack. If she can’t start a local fad, I have no idea of who else could do it.

So I’m your facilitator to the world of step dancing. And the first thing I’m going to do is steer you clear of DDR Super Nova 2. I read the reviews and looked at the musical line-up, and my hat is off to anyone who sticks with this version of the game. You’re seriously hardcore DDR. I am going to steer you towards the free and open source version, which is Stepmania. While you can download everything you want and need (and more) from the site, I do encourage folks to purchase the $20 CD which funds the various Stepmix contests. Or if you want me to send you a copy of mine, just let me know where to send it. Seriously, Open Source means FREE as in beer!

Fortunately Stepmania and DDR are similar enough that we can talk about the basic elements without causing too much grief. Dance Dance Revolution is a series of games (video and arcade) that involve stepping on arrows in time with the music. Hitting the arrows in time and in sequence is rewarded with points. Missing involves penalties. Hitting several arrows in a row is a combination or “combo”. A higher combo will multiply your score. Forr instance, hitting a 100 combo means that I’ve hit 100 arrrows in a row without missing. But if I miss at the 101st step, my combos have to start over. The scoring will multiply your highest combo so after missing that 101st step I can still better myself by hitting the next 110 arrows without missing.



There are several types of arrow combinations that include traveling around the mat, jumping and holding. Stepmania also includes mines and lift steps, but I turn those off because they are exceedingly nasty and hack my dancing groove. The steps are generally in 4-4 timing, musically although higher levels will include many half and quarter steps that require more speed and agility.


Let’s talk about levels and scoring for a bit. It’s my understanding that DDR has 3 basic skill levels with the various grades between them. Stepmania can have up to 5, but it is the grades or “feet” that really matter. A given song may have 3 or more levels, and each level is rated a certain number of “feet.” “Feet” are just the arbitrary symbol for degree of difficulty and more feet means more difficult.


One foot would be a beginner level with maybe 50 steps in the entire song. So they come relatively slow and far between. You may not be stepping every beat or even every other beat but you are learning how to time your steps and orient yourself to the mat. Two feet would be maybe 60-70 steps with a jump or two thrown in. You’ll know it’s a jump when you see two arrows come up at once and you have to hit them both at the same time. The only way to do that (assuming you have no more than two feet) is to jump.

Before going up to a higher level, beginners have a tendency to pick which arrows will be hit with which feet. For instance, the up and left arrow get the left foot and the right and lower arrow get the right foot, sort of playing zone defense with their feet. But this will break down in higher levels so you might as well get used to the idea of traveling all over the mat. That means not reorienting to the center after every step. Stepping is exactly that: walking, jumping or running from arrow to arrow. You are not penalized for being on an arrow that you aren’t supposed to be on, only for not being on an arrow when it comes up. Those of you who have played Guitar Hero will have a rough idea of how this works, only it takes some time orienting to the space of the mat.

Scoring is rated according to how closely you are timed with the music and your combos. At the end you get scored A-E, where ‘E’ is failing and A is pretty good. AA is way better and AAA and AAAA are impossible dreams, at least for me.


With DDR, you have to score well on the songs in each stage at a certain level in order to “unlock” more songs. High scores at higher levels unlock more songs. So this gives a person an incentive to keep working and keep playing in order unlock more songs. Thing is, some of the songs might be kind of crappy which means you might have to keep dancing to some crappy songs in order to get to the cool songs. And then you discover the cool songs aren’t all that cool so you dance to more crappy music hoping to unlock the REALLY cool songs.

The complaints I read in reviews of DDR Supernova 2 were that songs were not all that good. I have no idea and since I play Stepmania, it isn’t a concern. Yeah, there’s crappy songs in that game, too, but adding and deleting the music is not a problem. I’ll explain more about that later.

It’s easy to get carried away, as our friend Sugar discovered. On a lower level of play, you can literally play for hours at a time and not realize it. That’s because the steps are relatively far apart and it may take an hour to burn 200 calories. That’s okay because you’re just learning the game. These step games are good aerobic workouts because they are loads of fun and combine video games, dancing and music and possibly annoying a spouse, parent or sibling. But getting a really good workout means doing lots of steps in shorter and shorter periods of time which means higher and higher levels. I currently live at the 5-7 foot level, which is about 75-150 steps per minute which is easily 200+ steps per song which is a lot more than the 50 steps at beginner level. So take a song at 120 Beats per Minute (BPM) and throw in a bunch of half and quarter steps or a bunch of jumps and you get a decent workout. My groove is 135-150 BPM and anything less seems ungodly slow. That’s why the play list for DDR looks a little light to me, but 6 months ago I might have liked it better.

Stepmania page

I like Stepmania for a lot of reasons, besides the fact that it is free. First is that I have an unlimited song selection. I can make a stepfile for any mp3. I can also download hundreds of stepfiles from the web. Right now, I have over 400 songs with stepfiles. With infinite variety I can play whatever I feel like and most of the time it is hard and fast. Stepmania is also infinitely configurable. I can pick whatever animated character I want to dance with (or none), decline to do mines or hold steps, increase or decrease the tempo or choose a dozen different modes like “drunk mode” or “dizzy mode.” I rarely play “stage play” which is the default DDR mode but usually travel through a song group systematically until they are all mastered and then either find another group and increase the difficulty.

There are a couple of disadvantages to Stepmania that need mentioning. One is that most step mats are made for PS/PS2 consoles and so getting it on the PC involves a USB converter costing about $7-10. Not all mats and converters play well with a PC and one must be persistent to make it work. Configuring the mat to work properly can also be a pain compared to a PS2 game where you plug it in and it just works.

The configurability is a double-edged sword because with so many possible options it may take awhile to get it exactly the way you want. Hours could be spend tweaking instead of dancing, which takes a bit of nerdiness to really enjoy. But once everything works, it works wonderfully!

For DDR and Stepmania alike, I recommend trying a cheap mat to start with but once you get past beginner level, you’ll want to upgrade. I have some nice Red Octane mats I found on eBay for half price. The cheap mats slide around a lot when an adult body gets moving fast.

Just thinking about playing? Try and you can play with the arrow keys on your keyboard! Stepmania can also be played on the keyboard and I’d say a majority of the folks actively playing it are keyboard players. It was useful for me playing that way because I learned the game basics, tweaked the program and was able to rate song difficulty before getting on the mat. So I highly recommend trying it before investing any money

For exercise, it compares favorably to a treadmill although you may find yourself do more either because of the game aspect or liking the music aspect or both. But the impact on the bones and joints is about the same, depending on the thickness of your mat and your floor. It is mainly targeting the lower body, but as anyone whose been reading me knows, it can be an effective weight loss tool.

These games also have one other drawback though. Their loudness can and will annoy anyone else in the house. I do my workout after work at work when everyone else is gone. Sometimes I do it at home but Arwyn usually retreats when I do and sometimes the boys go with her. Doing it late at night or early in the morning isn’t going to work unless you find wireless headphones that work, which I haven’t found. Notice Joe Flirt making a hasty retreat after his daughter got one as well as Sugar’s family.

I’m encouraged to see other folks trying it out so maybe it can be a more popular activity at RWB reunions.



2. Has No Sexual Fantasies.

January 4, 2007

I’m in the process of working over my 10 Ways to identify a LL libido list.  Actually you could use the inverse to identify a HL, but remember we’re dealing in the realm of probabilities and generalities, here.  There are no guarantees.  Sort of like the stock market where past performance is the best indictor of future earnings, however no guarantees are expressed or implied.  But we’ll keep going, anyway.


When talking to a LL person, ask them about their sexual fantasies and chances are they won’t be able to share one with you.  Unable or unwilling (see previous entry) they have little to say in the fantasy department.


To us HL people, this seems incredible if not impossible.  How can a person NOT have sexual fantasies?  Go on over to Cat’s or Tom’s place to read some Friday fantasy material.  Always Aroused Girl and Chelsea Girl titillate us with sexual ruminations and erotic elucidations.  Artful Dodger’s place is a treasure trove of fantastic sensual delights of the serious, romantic and comedic varieties.  My blogroll is owned and possessed by those with fertile fantasies of every kind.  We are a bunch of perverts with sex on the brain.


But those with LL’s just don’t seem to think much about sex at all.  They are as easily distracted from sex as we are because of sex.  They’ll frequently talk about forgetting about it.  I once lurked the Usenet group alt.newlywed.  You’d think there might be some pretty hot discussion there, right?  WRONG!  It was dominated by women who seemed to discuss everything except sex.  And on the occasions it did come up, it was in a form something like this:


We don’t have as much sex as we used to have.  I don’t know what happened but I just sort of forget about it.  It’s like when you forget to eat until you are reminded by the sight or smell of food”


If the largest sexual organ is the brain, fantasies are what keeps the blood flowing.  Fantasies prime the pump and nourish desire.  They can make boring sex more exciting.  Fantasies fuel anticipation, imagination, interest and desire.  Many LL individuals complain about their partners wanting to go from 0 to 60 in 55 seconds.  The reason for that is that the fantasies keep the engine running.  Our LL people are totally starting out cold, while the HL folks have been gunning the throttle all the time.


It’s easier for me to understand the LL’s lack of fantasies when I think about golf.  I’ve been golfing a few times and it was fun.  But the fun of it involved more who I was with more than the game itself.  I could go the rest of my days and not miss playing.  I don’t dream about it or watch the golf channel or write about it or read about it.  I could care less about the game of golf.  To a real golfer, this may sound sacrilegious.  Perhaps if I had better golfing equipment or if I practiced more or drank more beer on the course…then I might learn to like it more.  But in reality, I’m simply not all that thrilled about it.  I can’t fathom watching it on TV, and can not imagine liking it more by being forced to do it more often.


Desmond and Therese brought up some concerns about those with deep religious convictions.  I certainly would not expect them to share fantasies about banging certain celebrities or saints.  However, there should be some fundamental fantasies such as wondering what it might be like with a prospective spouse.  In fact, I might expect a very religious person to actually have to work at keeping their thought-life captive and keeping the desires of the flesh at bay, so to speak.  This would be especially true if one were in a deepening relationship. 


The difficulty with someone who is very conservative is asking them about any sexual fantasies and getting an accurate, truthful answer.  One of my earlier (and Catholic) girlfriends seemed to translate her fantasies into dreams of us being together and having lots of kids.  Lots of sex = lots of kids, right?


While having many fantasies is not necessarily indicative of a high libido or wanting lots of sex, having NO fantasies is a very strong indicator of the absence of sexual desire. 


In my original list I make a reference to LL people having relatively mild fantasies, if any.  This might be more related to rigid thinking than libido, per se.  Some people are just not very creative or imaginative.  However I would associate originality, creativity and vivid fantasies as being very positive signs of someone who might appreciate sex.  Even moreso if I’m the subject of said fantasies!