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Dance Central Fitness Club Success Story: Colin

Over the past few weeks, Harmonixers and community members have been sharing their Dance Central success stories on how the game has helped them in reaching their individual fitness goals. Check out this story from a Harmonix QA Tester who may not consider himself a professional dancer, but is far closer to being one with the help of Dance Central.

Fitness and I have always had what can best be described as a touch-and-go relationship. In high school I was the worst cross-country runner on my team for years, repeatedly suffering through a workout routine that brought me repeated frustration and no accomplishment. In college, I gleefully abandoned the institutional regimen, my only exercise being a weekly bout of Japan’s latest dance video game. Of course, my “freshman fifteen” soon ballooned into a “junior forty,” and by the time I returned to my hometown, I was both out of shape and out of sorts. I turned to a sensible weight loss program and whittled my weight back down to my pre-college stats; however, I got tired of counting and floated back up to a median level of health – just comfortable enough to be tolerable. I stayed there for years.

Dance Central changed that.

When I was called in to interview with Harmonix, my love of video games and attention to detail were only two of three features that I brought to the table. The third was that I like to dance. Most of my experience stemmed from folk dancing and tap dance though I’d also just started to learn a bit of waving and popping. I didn’t have much time to dance in my everyday life, but my enthusiasm for dance helped me land the job. I discovered I would be a tester for Harmonix’s super secret dance game (or so it was at the time).

So there I was logging bugs, writing steps to reproduce, and listening to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” a dozen times in a row. In those first few months, it went the way I imagined a testing job would. There were lots of detail-oriented tasks to complete that would help coders shape the game into the sleek, functional piece of software you’re familiar with. Then a few months into the project there was a special task for myself and a few other testers – we got to help calibrate Dance Central’s scoring system (it’s what we call “filter testing”). Part of that process was practicing every song in the game until I could do it perfectly every time. Once I had a song down pat, I’d repeatedly perform it for a Kinect camera until every move I performed flawlessly would successfully register as a Flawless score in the game.

A professional dancer or regular gym member might not have thought much of the hours I danced every day. However, with the exception of one of our choreographers who joined the team, my fellow filter testers and I were not professional dancers. We were gamers. We were out-of-breath, sweaty gamers. As time passed, though, it got easier. I wasn’t losing my breath as quickly, and I could knock out a few filter passes in a fraction of the time that it would initially take. It didn’t occur to me that I might be getting fit, though, since I wasn’t noticeably losing weight. I had always associated being fit with being thin. I wasn’t actively dieting and I wasn’t doing much exercise except for Dance Central and an occasional affair with push-ups.

A turning point came when I complained to my roommate about the fit of a shirt I’d ordered online (it was tight around my chest and shoulders). My roommate pointed out that I had gained upper body muscles. I had to admit that she was right, and that wasn’t the only change. My strength and stamina had improved, my asthma was no longer bothering me on a regular basis, and – best of all – I got way more attention on the dance floor. My enthusiasm for Dance Central has never waned, and it remains my main source of exercise and fitness.

Early in the development of Dance Central, I joked that I could technically call myself a professional dancer. I never have – and I still wouldn't – but there’s no denying that I’m far closer to being one than when I started.

Colin before on the left, after on the right:

  • Colin Sandel Dance Central 2 QA Tester

To join the Dance Central fitness discussion, leave a comment on the official Dance Central Facebook page, tweet us @Dance_Central, or join us in the Dance Central forums.