Today, we got asked about picking out a dance game for a 10yo girl. The dance game genre is incredibly popular and crowded, with titles for Xbox, Wii and Playstation all selling well and competing strongly. But dance games are far more a product of the music industry than of the games industry, and they bring a lot of issues with them, especially around issues like over-sexualisation, and gender stereotyping which cause some parents a great deal of concern. Music brands such as High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber cater to a “pre-teen” market of young adults who are neither teens nor children. We help our questioner, Garon, to try to pick through this issue to make sure they get a game which they feel is suitable for their daughter:
“Hi, I saw you were offering to give some advice on PS3 dance games! I would like to get one for my daughter who’s about to be 10. I don’t have any idea what these things are like. Are the kids versions like Just Dance Kids really aimed at younger kids? She loves music but is not really into current pop music – we mostly listen to old tunes, then again it might be good to bring her a bit more up to date!
Any advice gratefully received. ” via Mumsnet
Its a long reply, so buckle up!
“Hello Garon. I have done some research for you and this is what I have come up with. But first, a preamble:
Dance games are created under the iron thumb of the record companies, and they bring a lot of “baggage” with them. The occasional dance move that parents and on-lookers may feel is veering a little toward the “raunchy” may sail straight over the heads of the kids – they just think it’s being physical and dancey and silly. The sexy subtext of a song will probably be loud and clear to the teens and adults, but the under 10s might go along utterly oblivious, singing along without a care in the world. And the studios are looking to sign acts that are popular and famous, so no matter what you think of their conduct as moral individuals, it’s inevitable that you are going to get a song by Rhianna, Miley Cyrus or Chris Brown, whatever title you buy. Child stars are also obviously extremely popular, so Justin Beiber, Selena Gomez and ilk will feature strongly also. Additionally, all these games will have a “Work Out” mode for exercise and weight loss. Dance games do have “an agenda” pushed by record companies- pre-teen and young teen obsessive super-fans spend a lot of their disposable income on music, so there is a massive amount of pressure on this genre to be SUPER FUN, SUPER COOL, SUPER EXCLAMATION MARKS!
I’m not trying to frighten you, I just want to be as honest as I can in saying that, if you have concerns about some of the trends we are seeing in the music industry, you may well find them in these games too. Dance games are not really “video games” proper, they are an extension of the music industry. The video game community of players and developers doesn’t have peer influence over these titles, they are music industry products that happen to be played on game systems. The “baggage” that comes from how much influence music has over pre-teen and teen behaviour is still going to be there. For some people, this is a really massive concern and something they feel very strongly about. For others, it’s just part of growing up and making the transition from kid to teenager and not a big deal. I just wanted to be as up front and honest with you as I can about it, so that you can decide what is the most appropriate choice for your daughter and where she is at right now.
So, with all of that in mind, I have some titles to suggest to you. As it is a popular genre, its crowded, and it can be confusing to try to tell all the different games apart. I’ve picked out a few for consideration:
The kingpin dance title for Playstation is “Just Dance.” The track mixes are solid party and modern pop mixes, popular with pre-teens; Just Dance 4 was voted Favourite Video Game at the Kids Choice Awards! You can dance alone, with or against friends. There are 50 tracks, including:
Maneater: Nelly Furtado
Moves Like Jagger: Maroon 5
Oops I Did It Again: Britney Spears
Age Rated: PEGI 3+
“DanceStar Party” is a good bet also. It’s not as popular as Just Dance – anecdotal evidence would suggest the developers tried to hit the middle ground between music video/night club dance moves and big silly, kiddie shapes, and the end result makes you look fairly daft; it’s a bit “uncool.” Nontheless, its a solid title for dance, and you can turn on the Playstation Move microphone to sing along. Tracks include:
Do It Like A Dude: Jessie J
Get Down On It: Kool & the Gang
Born This Way :Lady Gaga
Age rated: PEGI 12
“Just Dance Kids” is aimed at younger kindergarten children and definitely has much more of a Cbeebies feel to it; songs include Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes, Jingle Bells and the (annoyingly Americanised ) Itsy Bitsy Spider, as well as hits from child stars like Will Smith’s daughter Willow Smith and the dreaded Justin Beiber. Also included are some Disney and Pixar film theme songs, like the title track from Despicable Me, performed by Pharrell Williams. The routines are much easier than the original Just Dance games and the dance moves are much more “kiddified;” doing star-jumps rather than shaking your booty.
Age Rated: PEGI 3+
The way these games work is like this: You select the song from the menu, and imitate an on screen avatar by copying their moves as closely as you can. Think of it as a physical game of Simon Says! You can play alone against the screen, or bring friends over for dance parties to compete against each other. To play, you will need to make sure you own a “Playstation Move.” This is a camera which connects into your Playstation, and a wand which looks a bit like a plastic tennis ball on a stick. You hold the wand as you dance, and the camera tracks the movement of the ball on the end to determine your movements. You only need one camera, but you need as many wands as you have players. Word to the wise: the wand has a wrist strap. If you value your household ornaments, make sure you put that wrist strap on nice and tight! You may need to go out and buy a Playstation Move kit, or it might have come bundled in with your Playstation when you bought it.
I hope this information is useful to you, and if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask!”
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