EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Just Dance 4 World Record Holder Carrie Swidecki

To promote the new Guinness World Records 2014 Gamer’s Edition, the publishers and their PR people chose four of the included records to highlight in their press materials. Included among them was “Longest Marathon On A Dance Video Game,” which was set by Carrie Swidecki, a second grade teacher who played Just Dance 4 for 49 Hours, 3 Minutes, and 22 Seconds. But Swidecki isn’t just some obsessive gamer, she’s also trying to spread the word about exergaming, the idea of using video games in schools as a way to get kids to exercise.

Just Dance 4 03

What made you want to set the record for “Longest Marathon On A Dance Video Game”?

I wanted to bring national awareness to using exergaming in the schools to fight childhood obesity. I wanted to make a public statement that not only can exergaming get you fit, but it can give you incredible strength and endurance. Every time I set a world record, it opens the door for more schools to include exergaming in their physical education programs.

Thirteen years ago, I was 210 pounds, plus size 18-20, and living my life in the past. Within six years from graduating from high school, I gained 90 pounds and went from being a 120 pound athlete to being obese. Then I discovered exergaming. So I know the power of it because it changed my life. Obesity has been one of the hardest things for me to overcome. I started gaining weight when I was 18 years old and now I’m 37. That’s half my life I’ve been battling my weight. Exergaming has given me the strength and confidence to achieve things I never imagined I was capable of.

I also love that, every day, I see the impact my actions have on my local community. People come to me and tell me how they’re using dance video games into their fitness routine. One lady told me she lost twenty pounds. Teachers have told me that I have inspired them to use the Wii in their classroom for physical education. I received letters from parents around the world asking if I would dance with their children to motivate them to get fit or if I would call their district to ask if they would get exergaming in their school’s physical education programs. I have also been contacted by educators around the world asking advice on how to set up an exergaming in their physical education programs. I’ve never had so much love and support in my life, and it motivates me to keep fighting for the children.

It’s why I’ll be attempting another world record in the summer of 2014. Though I’m not saying what record or game just yet.

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Why did you go with Just Dance 4 as opposed to another dancing game? Because you also hold the records for playing Dance Central and Dance Dance Revolution, so you could’ve, it seems, set the “Longest…” record with any of them.

In the past, I introduced my students to my world, Dance Dance Revolution, and in return they introduced me to theirs, motion sensing dance games. I never intended on setting another world record after I set my first with Dance Dance Revolution at the U.S. Obesity Prevention Summit in Charleston, West Virginia. But I was so moved by all the love and support I received from my local community and people around the world that I decided that I had to keep fighting to get exergaming in the schools.

Why Just Dance 4? Because I listened to my students and parents at my school. I decided to take myself out of my comfort zone of the arcade and set a world record on a motion sensing dancing game for the students at my school, who inspire me everyday to keep fighting. In the process of training for my world record attempt with Dance Central 2, I fell in love with motion sensing dance games.

But then I discovered Ubisoft’s Just Dance series and everything changed. Not only did my students and their families love it, but I fell in love with it, too. Technology has changed and allowed dance games to evolve. Motion sensing dance games like Just Dance 4 incorporate your full body, giving you and an incredible full body workout.

To set this record, you played Just Dance 4 for 49 Hours, 3 Minutes, and 22 Seconds. After listening to all that dance music, did you do anything to reset your equilibrium, like listen to Metallica’s Master Of Puppets?

I was really hungry, so my friends and I went to Denny’s and I ordered three meals. Then I went home and slept. The next day, I went to my acupuncturist then had an one hour foot and leg massage, and three days later I joined a new run group and went on a three mile run. But on the fourth day, I was Just Dance-ing my heart away at Otto’s Video Games And More.

After playing Just Dance 4 for more than two days, are there any songs on it that you just can’t stand anymore?

I had Just Dance 4 set to non stop shuffle mode and it seemed like “The Final Countdown” [by Europe] would repeat every seven or eight songs. My volunteers and I started giving a shout out every time it came on.

Just Dance 4 Final Countdown

Ugh. Yeah, once is enough for that song. When doing this, were you allowed to do anything else, like have a glass of water or take a bathroom break?

For every hour, you earn a ten minute break to use at your will. You can use it up all at once, you can use part of it and accumulate the rest for later, or you can accumulate it all for a larger break to use when you want. You’re also allowed up to twenty seconds between songs, and have keep your accuracy up as well. If you fail a song, your attempt has ended. Obviously, you knew when you set the record that you’d be mentioned in the Guinness World Records 2014 Gamers Edition book. But how does it feel to have your record be one of the ones they highlight to promote the book?

Actually, just because you set a world record, it doesn’t guarantee your record will be in the book. The first record I set in 2011 didn’t make the 2012 Gamer’s Book, though they featured it on the Guinness website. But my twenty-four hour world records on Dance Central 2 was listed in the 2013 Gamer’s Book.

Being featured in the 2014 Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition is an accumulation of over thirteen years of exergaming and overcoming the obstacles of being a female gamer, being obese, and aging in the process. It’s an honor and the greatest moment of my life. I’m thirty-seven years old and this shows that dreams really can come true, no matter what your age is. I hope to inspire people that when you find something you love, work hard, then you can achieve anything in this world. Never stop chasing your dreams, no matter how long it takes to achieve them.

One of the other records that they’re using to promote the book is “Fastest Completion Of Batman: Arkham City, which Sean “DarthKnight” Grayson did in 2 Hours, 3 Minutes, and 19 Seconds. Is it weird that you played Just Dance 4 longer than it took him to beat Batman?

I love it, because in my world I’m always thinking about how long I can keep dancing. It’s fun to see the contrast.

I feel like you got the better end of that deal.

Thanks.

After you set your records — both the Just Dance 4 one and the others — did you hear anything from any of the companies that put out the games?

I was sponsored by Konami [who publish the Dance Dance Revolution games] to set my first world record at the U.S. Obesity Prevention Summit in Charleston, West Virginia. They congratulated me in person, and invited me to E3 2011. Harmonix [who publish Dance Central] also contacted me to congratulate me, sent me an incredible Dance Central package, and donated a raffle prize at my attempt.

Ubisoft [who publish Just Dance 4] have also been extremely supportive with my Presidential Fitness Program, and donated the games and Just Dance sunglasses for the hundred students who completed the program. They also supported my attempt with Just Dance 4, and donated an Xbox 360 and Kinect with Just Dance games for our raffle, Just Dance shirts for all of my volunteers, and gave updates during my attempt on Twitter. Then, when I set the record, they emailed me to congratulate me and gave a huge shout out on social media. I wouldn’t have been able to play Just Dance 4 for that long without the support of Ubisoft. Every time I took a break, I checked my Twitter account and I saw all the positive messages from Ubisoft and fellow gamers who were following my account. It was amazing and helped give me that extra push when I needed it. I will be sending a set of Guinness Certificates for these world records to Ubisoft for their support and being wonderful.

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As I understand it, all of this started when, years ago, you were walking past an arcade and saw a Dance Dance Revolution machine. What was it about D.D.R. that you liked so much?

Exergaming encompasses everything that I love in this world: dancing, the athletic aspect of it, gaming, graphics, music, and education. I grew up tap dancing, playing sports, playing Atari and Nintendo, and playing several musical instruments. I also have a minor in computer graphics. So everything I loved was in that arcade machine.

So aside from dancing games, what other kinds of video games do you like to play?

As I said, I grew up playing Atari and Nintendo, and I currently collect and play original Nintendo games. I also still play Dance Dance Revolution in the arcade two or three times a week. The arcade has a very special place in my heart because it’s where I rediscovered myself when I was obese. And you can imagine how many hours a week I play Just Dance. I also buy a lot of the new releases for Xbox 360, but they are still sealed up. When I’m retired from exergaming, I hope to have time to actually play them.

 


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