In the past decade, video games have become synonymous with high-definition motion graphics, custom soundtracks, and 3D animated characters stealing cars, mopping up zombie-filled warehouses with sawed off shotguns, and running 75-yard game-stealing touchdowns, complete with victory dances. Bro stuff, right? But what about the anti-bros? The disco dancers? The LGBTQ community? Must video games be relegated to action sequences and senseless violence? And if the characters are so lifelike, why are the games so far removed from real life?

 

 

Thanks to indie designers like Team Lazerbeam, the video game medium is being used as a tool to build confidence and raise social awareness, whether the players realize it or not.

 

 

Team Lazerbeam’s latest game, Dance to Express Dancing Success, tells the tale of a self-conscious fashionista who hits up the club—looking for a few drinks and hoping to meet some other cool kids—but is intimidated at the prospect of dancing. Players must choose from a series of potential thoughts before expressing them aloud (think comic-book thought bubbles) to their peers, in hopes of being invited to the dancefloor.

 

 

Once on the floor, the more you believe in yourself and click the highly flexible body parts of your character into outrageous dance moves, the higher your score and adulation. While the game is crudely drawn in hipster neon colors and opts for a retro 2D format, the message is one of confidence and acceptance over self-doubt.

 

 

In his article for O’Canada.com—titled “Can Video Games Provide Political/Social Commentary?”—Patrick O’Rourke explains that “modern indie games are trying to shed light on social and political issues without the player even realizing it.” Unlike watching an after-school special on a passive television set, a video game offers an interactive experience. According to O’Rourke, “Interactive experiences will always have the ability to affect players more thoroughly than passive experiences.”

 

 

Most of us at some point have found ourselves in socially intimidating situations that either we overcame, or they crippled us for years to come. The dancefloor is a perfect example, and Lazerbeam’s game is a brilliant and safe way to examine some all-too-common fears. In this case, the medium is the message.

Dance to Express Dancing Success is available as a free download.


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