Dan Dickinson Interview Part Two

Dan Dickinson

What do you think drew people to joining VJ Army?

At the time it went live - remember, this was during the two year lull between 6th and 7th Style - there was really no good way to get a handle on how you were doing at IIDX (without carrying a notebook around). The games didn't have the level of stat tracking that the hardcore players were craving. I think that helped a lot.

The community was also really strong for a few years. People were helpful to people trying to learn the game. There was an excitement that new CS (console) games were coming again, and it just made for a good environment as DDR wound down for people to pour their energy into.

How did the IIDXicon come about?

RemyWiki is an odd little thing. The original point of it was to have an easy place to toss up the documentation for the site. IIDXicon and the Pop'nomicon were an afterthought. But I did realize pretty quickly that there was an advantage in starting to flesh out a song/artist database. There wasn't a general purpose Bemani wiki.

Ironically, it wasn't until after I shut down VJA that the handful of people who really love RemyWiki picked it up and ran with it with more song info, more cross-linking and the like. I constantly find it useful. And so does most of the world, if my traffic is any indication. RemyWiki traffic outpaces my blog by a 9:1 ratio.

What do you think distinguished VJ Army from other online gaming communities?

The site exposed that, despite everything I had learned from my time moderating DDRFreak, there were some really awesome people in the US Bemani community. And I think getting all those people into one spot, without a lot of regional distinction or elitism, made it a unique place for a short while.

I also stood by (and continue to stand by) my driving force for building websites. If you're doing it for money or fame or whatever, you're setting yourself up for a fall. I ran VJ Army without a profit motivation, without asking for donations, without trying to build it to be something huge, and that helped it thrive. Or at least, not fall apart when things got tough.

During your time as VJ Army's moderator, how big did the community get in terms of active members?

I think our user registrations had topped out around 3,500 by the time we shut down last year. What percentage of those were "active" was hard to gauge. Our average daily users fluxed a lot because when a game would come out, there'd be a rush to enter scores, but in between months you'd have people pop up when they went in for score grinding.

What led to your stepping down from the role of site moderator?

I hope I detailed this pretty well in the site shutdown, but it was two main things. One, the forums had spiraled out of control. They were doing more traffic than the actual site, and very little of it was IIDX focused. The community's main draw became the community, and while I can appreciate it, I wasn't a part of it and didn't feel a lot of motivation to keep it going. It being clique-like and a source of drama didn't help.

The other reason: I didn't have the time to maintain the site anymore. There were bugs that had been kicking around for years that I couldn't find the drive to fix when I got home from work. People deserved better, and it put a surprising amount of guilt on me that I had this crappy website kicking around that I had half-abandoned. The date of the shutdown, June 6, 2009, was my 29th birthday; being able to pull the plug that day was something like a birthday present to myself.

The original intention was to just do a pure shutdown. I wasn't interested in handing the code to anyone. Luckily, a team stepped up, particularly Geoff Mazzolini, who offered to pick up the code and get it rehosted and moving again.

Do you still play IIDX today?

I actually haven't played since I went to Tokyo on vacation last winter, when I found a Sirius machine in one of the Akihabara arcades. I still have all my home gear, and my Japanese PS2 is still powered up under the TV in case I get the urge, but not sure it's going to happen.

How do you feel about the new generation of rhythm games, such as DJ Hero, Dance Central, Guitar Hero and Rock Band?

I honestly think it's great, even with the market being a bit over-saturated. I play as many as I can get my hands on, and there's generally something in every music game I can enjoy. As a big iOS guy, I've been really interested in touch-based games, and Konami's recent Jubeat port is really well done. I hope Pentavision follows suit with a DJ Max Technika port soon.

Photo of Dan Dickinson belongs to him and is used with permission.