Dance Dance Revolution and its many copycats (Pump It Up, In the Groove and so on) already feel like a blast from the past. So why not lean into that? Tournament organisers at Rumble in the Prairie 9 yesterday decided to re-live 1999 and troll their competitors in the process.
These competitors played on In the Groove machines, which are the same as DDR machines in terms of button layout, but are a lot friendlier towards importing user-created songs, since they use the open source StepMania engine. This allows for the existence of "sight-reading competitions", in which gamers compete in dances featuring music and steps that they have never seen ahead of time — a different and arguably more difficult task than practising the same song over and over.
So these sight-reading competitions are already hard, but here's an even harder layer to add on top of them: The "couples" style of competition, in which two players coordinate to perform a dance that requires both of them to use both pads cooperatively, switching back and forth seamlessly from one side of the board to the next. Success in this event requires a highly specialised skillset.
Jim "Aoreo" Nero and Ryan "Rynker" Konkul have honed these skills to a fine point, which is how they won first place in the "couples" tournament at Rumble in the Prairie 9 yesterday. Both of them have mastered the dance pad individually as well, with Rynker's own YouTube channel featuring a full decade of his competitive dance gaming skills, and Aoreo's Youtube featuring seven years of the same.
But the most impressive and bizarre moment of RIP9 yesterday happened when the duo got faced with a special sight-reading bonus round at the very end of the "couples" tournament, featuring a groan-worthy song that both delighted and horrified everyone in attendance: Smash Mouth's "All-Star".
Just like DDR, Smash Mouth's "All-Star" came out in 1999, and it's a persistent meme to this day. RIP9 built their own version of the song in a quintessentially '90s way: It runs in Notepad on Windows 3.1, which means the audio is just that much harder to decipher. There are no lyrics, only a blippy 16-bit audio track playing the distinctive late-'90s ear worm.
As soon as the song begins, the tournament attendees recognise that they have been trolled, and, after groaning in recognition, they all sing along in unison to supply the song's missing lyric track. Meanwhile, Aoreo and Rynker do their damnedest to nail as many combos as they can. (Their opponents, who follow them, perform significantly worse at this task — in spite of the fact that they got to see it all ahead of time!)
For a better view of Aoreo and Rynker performing the 1999 classic, as well as a view of the crowd in attendance, here's a link to a video taken by an attendee at the event.
Shout out to the guy in that video who's covering his ears and refusing to sing, even as he politely keeps his eyes glued to Aoreo and Rynker clearing the bonus round with style. He could have put his finger and his thumb in the shape of an L on his forehead, but he chose not to, out of respect… and also because that would have required him to stop covering his ears.