Rocky Mount Four

Rocky Mount Four
John Wittle

Dance Dance Revolution…. The name sounds kinda stupid, doesn’t it? I’m sure it has a cooler title in Japanese, but that’s the breaks, I guess. In essence, it’s a dancing game. There are arrows on a screen, and arrows on the floor, and you have to press the arrows on the floor when they appear on the screen. It sounds kind of simple, but it’s not, because at high levels of difficulty the arrows move quickly, and one is constantly in motion. Because of its addictiveness, it’s attracted a huge cult following, of which I am a part. There are frequent tournaments all along the east and west coast, but the main hub of the southeast is Rocky Mount, North Carolina. There’s a small arcade on Independence Road in Rocky Mount, and once every year and a half, over a hundred people from all along the east coast come and compete to see who is better or worse. There’s an entrance fee of usually around $10, and with hundreds of entrants, the grand prize for first place in the top division can be in the thousands. It was at the fourth incarnation of this tournament, entitled Rocky Mount Four: The Phantom Mafia, that I had my first real competition.

My dad drove me. It’s about an hour drive, and we listened to music the whole way. I remember enjoying the drive, specifically remembering it being very warm outside that Saturday, and my dad was going to stay at the arcade for the duration of the tournament. He had brought along his laptop and was going to read his email the entire time. I thought that was kind of funny, since I only got a few emails a day, but he got hundreds. I digress; we got to the arcade an hour early, at 11, so I grabbed a machine to warm up. I was exceptionally nervous, and kept messing up, but I was as ready as I ever would be when the clock struck noon and we were supposed to register. I had intended to register for the lower division, but there were a lot of people there worse than me, and so I was tempted to try out for Heavy, the higher division. In the end, though, I stuck with Standard, the lower division, even though I knew I was better than most of the people in it. This ended up being a bad idea.

For the seeding round, we played one of the easier songs in the game. I didn’t try very hard at all, and messed up several times. Because of this, I got seeded lower than I should have in a division I shouldn’t have joined in the first place. So in the first round, I was up against a girl who I thought was kind of mean. I beat her by a lot, over 30 steps, and she got kind of angry and said that I was sandbagging. At the time, I didn’t know what that meant, but I figured it out soon enough. It meant purposefully getting a lower seed than you could have so that you go up against people you can win easily against. I didn’t do so on purpose, but it was definitely what I had done. I skated through the next few rounds, drawing the ire of the tournament organizer, Darksyde. But he didn’t say anything. Eventually, I went up against Amz, who I recognized from a video online. He was much better than me, and he definitely sandbagged as I had. However, he got distracted at one point, and we had a perfect tie, which is completely unheard of in DDR. Darksyde wasn’t sure what to do, but eventually he gave me the win because of some careful score counting.

He chose, for the next song, a song that is notoriously difficult, often considered not fair. It has a stream of 128 steps per second for a few seconds, so one basically just smashes arrows and the only way to win is by luck. He won, barely, and for the tiebreaker we chose Random and got the same song. A rule of the tournament was that you couldn’t choose a song twice during the duration of the entire tournament, so we weren’t sure what to do. Dark eventually cleared it though, so we played it again. I beat him on the stream of arrows by luck, and it came out to him winning by a dozen or so steps, so I got stopped there, dwindling between fourth and third to be decided later. Amz went on to go up against Rand0m Negr0, an aspiring DDR player who ended up winning the Standard division of the tournament.

I went up against another girl whose name I don’t know to see who got third place, and I won, so I got my ten-dollar entrance fee back as a prize. And a lot of angry looks. A ton of angry looks, to me, Amz and Random, because we were distinctly better than everyone else in the lower division. I personally believe Amz sandbagged on purpose, because that’s like him, but I didn’t do anything about it.

That day, I had put my own want to not come in last above others, and it frankly made a lot of people angry. I’ve been careful, since then, not to do anything like that again. In the next tournament I went to, I went into Heavy and came in third to last, but I felt much better about myself, because I had tried my best instead of slacking off and doing alright.

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