January 29, 2009
Time to boogie!

The woman that brought us I Love Bees and The Lost Ring is asking you to tap into your "top secret Choreopowers". That's right, the always-innovative Jane McGonigal is now behind Top Secret Dance-Off (TSDO), a MMO game based on a Ning social network.

McGonigal, along with Kiyash Monsef, embarked in this endeavor with no sponsorship or team of developers, she sees it as "something I think will be a fun adventure that helps you develop a real superpower". Its grassroots feel is certainly part of the projects appeal, well that, and the fact these guys just LOVE to dance. Already some 200 people have signed up in the month since TSDO begun its playtesting phase.

You don't need to already be an expert dancer to join the fun, but it certainly is not for the shy. Participants can vote on each other's videos according to style, humor, awesomeness, courage, exuberance, coordination, sneakiness, cleverness, boldness, beauty and, my favorite category, unreal.

People participate by completing Dance-offs and Dance Quests, which are regularly released by McGonigal's TSDO alter ego, Punky McMonsef. These missions are intertwined with other mysteries that need to be deciphered. If successful the players will receive real "loot" in the mail. As the players work their way through the different missions, they unveil layers of the game's mythology.

But this is not about one cool dancer against the world, players join alliances and its only through crowdsourcing that they are able to resolve their multiple challenges. Already the alliances are inspiring fierce loyalty and trash talking.

This grassroots experiment has been embraced with enthusiasm by a vast range of dance power seekers all over the world. It is transgressive and seductive by nature, and before you know it it'll have you shakin' it as you cross the street while wearing a masks with feathers.

Find more videos like this on Top Secret Dance Off

This project is all about participatory culture and it has the potential to become a transnational, cross-generational space loaded with positive energy, not an easy feat. TSDO is a strange combination of competitive spirit with silly unrestricted joy.

If you're planning on joining in, the best advice seems to be to jump right in, because, it's like Starflower said after winning the "Too Dead the Phalarope" mask: Don't plan too much, because plans fail you. Instead, let the dance secret work you as much as you can.