POWAY – Jennifer Stoefen couldn't believe her eyes.
There on a Dance Dance Revolution machine – a video game immensely popular with preteens and teens – were images
of drugs, alcohol and a scantily clad nurse riding up and down on a syringe.
"I was appalled to see that stuff flashing on the screen," said the 17-year-old Stoefen, who first saw the pictures in
March on the Dance Dance Revolution game at Poway Fun Bowl.
"I'm a teen-ager, but I've seen 5-year-olds playing this game," said Stoefen. "And as far as I'm concerned, those images
are totally unnecessary. Why do they need to have pictures with rows of pills, cocktails, Ecstasy and a syringe?"
But Stoefen didn't just walk away.
She and several members of the Youth Advocacy Coalition documented the pictures, contacted the company that placed the
game in the Poway Fun Bowl and convinced the arcade owner to replace the machine – called a Solo 2000 – with one
that does not have offensive pictures.
Stoefen said her group is made up of teens who are committed to reducing the glamorization and promotion of alcohol, tobacco
and other drugs. They are part of the coalition's North Inland division.
"We feel really good about what we were able to accomplish," said Stoefen, who graduated from Rancho Bernardo High School
this month and plans to study film at San Jose State University. "Little kids or even teens don't need to see that stuff.
And we were happy the business people we dealt with agreed with us, too."
Dance Dance Revolution, or DDR, requires players to step on arrows on a floor pad in sequence with arrows that flow up
across a large screen in front of them, accompanied by pulsating techno music. The machines often attract crowds in arcades.
Jimmy Anvarino, who owns Poway Fun Bowl, said he was shocked when he learned the nature of the background pictures flashing
on his DDR screen and was glad to replace the game.
"I am very much anti-drugs," he said. "We try to make this a family place where kids can get off the streets. And we do
tons of birthday parties. When I found out they were promoting drugs, I couldn't believe it."
Lynn Endres, whose family runs Area Amusement in San Marcos, the company which placed the game in the Poway arcade, said
she was more than willing to have it switched out with one that does not have drug, alcohol and sexually provocative images.
"I absolutely was unaware of what was on that game," said Endres, who said she is the mother of a pre-teen daughter. "I
could not believe that they had something like that on."
Endres described the images as disgusting, and said she asked the distributor to remove the machine as quickly as possible.
She would not name the distributor which provided the game to her company.
"Area Amusement is a family business," said Endres, who was given an award yesterday for her cooperation. "My father started
this company and us kids have taken it over. We try to comply with the rules and put stickers on the machines to guide parents.
Boy, have games changed in the last 20 years. We sure don't need this kind of stuff."
A spokeswoman for Konami of America, which sells several versions of the Japanese-made Dance Dance Revolution game, said
the Solo 2000 model was imported illegally into the United States.
"Of course we are concerned by something like this because we want to be sure that we have appropriate content in arcades,"
said Tammy Schachter of Konami's marketing department. "Perhaps that is why we chose not to import this model."
She said the purpose of the game is to get kids moving and exercising. In fact, some elementary schools have begun to incorporate
the machines into their physical education classes. Because the Solo 2000 is not sanctioned by Konami of America, Schachter
said she did not know where other versions of it might be found.
Konami has taken out ads in trade publications telling arcade owners that illegal machines are being operated in the United
States, and that Konami technicians will not service them, said Kirk Prindle, Konami's general counsel.
"This kind of thing is really hard to control," Prindle said. "Even when we go after them in the courts, some of these
shops just close up and disappear."
Ken Bridenstine, a spokesman for the North Community Inland Prevention Program – which sponsors the Youth Action
Coalition – said his group is trying to track down other Solo 2000 machines through a fan Web site, at http:// www.ddrfreak.com,
that lists the locations of 343 DDR machines in California and others throughout the United States. As they do, they will
contact other coalition groups to see if they will pursue the removal or replacement.
"We think just about every arcade out there has one or more of these machines because they are that hot," he said. "And
they really are popular with young kids.
"Our point is that even though this stuff is in the background, it's there and it says in a way that drugs and alcohol
are all right. Teens already see enough of that, we really shouldn't glamorize those things for little kids, too."
Brian Clark: (760) 752-6761; firstname.lastname@example.org
Now that you have read this you now know or allready know that they DO HAVE ddr machines in sandiego schools. What
I'm saying is it would be cool if there was a ddr machine in your school wouldn't it? If you think you should talk to your
princepal or gym teacher about getting ddr machine installed into your gym or where ever in your school as part of your PE.
Don't let your fears stop you. Speak your mind. As a kid we are sometimes underestimated and we need a voice. If you think
u want to try this out then go ahead. If failur or success happends plz post in forms for all to see and enjoy or not enjoy.
So beaware that it is happining in other schools and it could happen in yours too. By the way I go to school in the sweetwater
school district in chula vista. BV baby.