In Da Club: A Musical Moment Few Video Games Get Right

Games take us to all manner of fantastical, unlikely places. But as good as video games have gotten at accurately recreating a space-marine shootout or a mountaintop dragon battle, there's one thing developers are still learning how to create: a dance club.

Many games try to create thriving urban environments for players to occupy, and there's nothing that says "thriving" and "urban" like a packed, sweaty dance club. Unfortunately, until very recently, games have been very, very bad at rendering realistic dance clubs.

This scene from Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines (a game which I love, I should say) best exemplifies the sort of awkward, embarrassing antics you'd see in early video game dance clubs. There just wasn't enough processing power to make the club as hazy, loud, or crowded-feeling as it needs to be to be convincing. I love dancing at The Asylum, but mostly because it's so endearingly goofy.

There's nothing sadder than an empty dance floor, though, as evidenced by this video from Star Wars: The Old Republic. It's like being at an unpopular kid's Bar Mitzvah.

Rockstar have long understood how dance clubs feel, once again demonstrating their preternatural ability to be ahead of the curve on this sort of thing. Even with its now-primitive graphics, Vice City's Malibu Club is a pretty convincing club:

It paves the way, of course, for the much more convincing clubs in Grand Theft Auto IV and its expansion chapters:

The dance club scene in Max Payne 3 may represent the pinnacle of video games' representations of dance clubs so far:

Nice. The thrumming bass, the way that dialogue instantly gets cut out and muffled, the fact that you can't understand what the hell anyone is saying. There are some shortcuts — see through the smoke and mirrors of the lens filters and fog machines and you can tell that the dance floor animations are somewhat repetitive and limited — but all the same, this club feels more authentic than any before it.

A huge part of creating a convincing digital dance club is the music and more specifically, the way the music sounds. It can't just be the regular background music that plays during the game — music in a club is thrumming, physical, oppressive. You can't hear anything over it, and as a result everyone is shouting. On top of the pounding bass, there's a high-frequency scream of reverberating voices. It's not an easy thing to get right, making it all the more remarkable when a game does.

I turn it over to you — what are some of your favourite video game clubs? Any classics that are worth mentioning?


    The "clubs" in mass effect are pretty realistic of what i'd imagine future space bars to be like. The halo reach brute dj easter egg is pretty memorable actually turning the whole room into a covenant dance party

      I still find it odd though that Alien cultures would share our obsession for dimly lit loud rooms where people go to dance and get wasted

      that said though omega did feel sleezy and club like

      Last edited 26/10/12 5:04 pm

    Didn't read article, just browsed to confirm Conker's Bad Fur Day was not included.


    One thing that I think the article misses out on is that a packed club needs to be PACKED. If you've got a pit-style dancefloor it really could do with being packed shoulder to shoulder (or squeezed in even closer). Of course that would not only mean a huge number of individual characters to render, but also a whole bunch of messing around to make sure people aren't just clipping through each other as they dance/move, thoroughly cramped in. :P

    Gotta agree with fezboy18, the "clubs" in Mass Effect are pretty great, but they're more like smaller bars than a huge, packed out club.

    I personally thought the club you go to when you get to the internet in Tron 2.0 was pretty cool, but of course that wasn't really like a real club and didn't need to be either.

    Worst - Relentless: Twinsen's Adventure/LBA1 - granted the tech was a bit limited for the time but for such a fantastic game otherwise it kinda bugged me that the funky dance club only had static prerendered attendees!
    Best - Kane & Lynch - say what you will about the wonky gameplay, but it's a co-op experience like no other (highly recommended in splitscreen) with some fantastic setpieces, one of which is the dance club full of smoke and people and laser lights... which turns into a pretty crazy gunfight when you see flashlights bouncing through the throng to signal security looking for you and patrons start to panic!

    The last one was the only that is actually a cut scene. admittedly an in game cut scene but still all scripted so ALOT easier to do. When you can move around is only after everyone has cleared out.

    HAHAHAA that GTA one is AMAZING lol

    People complained about the Airport mission in COD but back in GTA days lol

    the club doom level in the saturn and playstation ports of doom!

    While not a club, the bar in dxhr is pretty spot on. Looks like any bar I have ever Dj'd at. People standing around trying to look cool. Even the Dj booth had what appeared to be future Dj tech.

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