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The case for DDR

March 25, 2012

TLDR:  DDR seems like a fun, effective, low-cost way of getting exercise.


I am one of those people who wishes they liked long-distance running (for the sake of my cardio) but finds it miserable 90% of the time.  Sports, on the other hand, are awesome.  Some sort of strange cognitive bias (which seems biologically unjustified) makes the added motivation of there being a hoop/goal/whatever cause running around to be much less painful.  I think most (indeed, not all – so if you disagree, this article doesn’t apply to you!) people would agree that playing sports is more personally enjoyable than running.

There is a barrier to entry for sports, though.  If you never played as a kid, it’s probably embarrassing and not very fun to hit the fields, court and then miss the ball, hoop, etc.  You can’t just join an adult, or even college intramural league, for fun, without feeling bad about yourself for sucking.  I suspect there are many people with high discount rates (I will talk about why I disagree with these people in detail, sometime) who suffer from this effect, and never get going with sports, even though they would enjoy them; the sort of people who consider themselves unathletic, and never did anything except get their shins kicked in youth soccer leagues.  There are other costs to sports too – it takes up more time, you have to commute, find people to play with, etc.

To some extent, this explains why many people tend to start running and going to the gym instead, when they pick up motivation partway through their lives.  If you’re motivated enough, these things can be sort of fun and feel good.  But motivation gets lost easily (read: America is obese).  But games (including sports) somehow motivate really well (read: hmm.. America plays FarmVille).  (Oops.  Is starting two sentences in a row with “but” bad form?  Probably.  But I don’t care enough, as it seems fine in principle.  “But it becomes ambiguous whether the second ‘but’ counters the first ‘but’, or the original thing.”  But in the latter case, we should just not say ‘but’ again… and saying “on the other hand” only works two levels deep, in the world where we avoid reusing things (I have probably broken flow so much that the next sentence will seem off topic, even though it’s not.  I understand that speech is best when linear, and I wish writing wasn’t.  Perhaps I will make a better way to format/structure writing, if I ever become not lazy, but for now, parentheses will have to do – hooray!)).  This is why Fitocracy was such a good idea (a website which gameifies exercise – you should check it out if you haven’t before) – it uses peoples’ biases to overcome other ones.

This is also why I think DDR is an excellent thing (this is assuming exercise is an excellent thing (I will probably make many implicit assumptions, but so does everyone)).  DDR is a terrible game, in the sense that it involves mindlessly following directions to press certain buttons.  But what matters is that it’s fun and mostly free of cost – you can download Stepmania and song files off the internet, and order cheap pads off Amazon for $25, probably a smaller cost than the barrier to entry for sports.  You also don’t need to go anywhere, don’t need anyone else to play with, and it only takes 10 minutes to put yourself on the brink of collapse (with no bars, and especially doubles, like in the video linked above).  There will be a learning curve at first, but if you play often, you can get to playing 10+ foot songs within a month or two, and it’s really good exercise and good fun (comparable to sports, in my book).

P.S. apparently someone trained for a marathon with DDR


From → Exercise, Games

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