['Chewing Pixels' is a regular GameSetWatch-exclusive column written by British games journalist and producer, Simon Parkin. This time, a video game-related adventure in late-night London.]

It's eleven ‘o clock on a Saturday night and London’s drunk.

She gets like this from time to time, usually at the weekend. Sometimes the booze manifests itself in shouts and swagger, in furious fistfights sicked up by bar doors onto the pavement outside. Tonight though, the city’s wrapped in a gentle sort of inebriation, an exaggerated swaying on the tube ride home, eyes clenched shut with concentration: down stomach, down.

Five minutes walk from Piccadilly Circus’ bright lights and slogans sits the Trocadero, the capital’s largest remaining amusement arcade. A hen party, all crooked tiaras and bleared mascara totters past the giant double doors: these tall escalators and polished floors are no place for cocktails on high heels. Inside, rows of arcade machines buzz and bleep, attract mode sequences beckoning the curious with the promise of pixel adventure.

Kids stand idly by with studied nonchalance, glancing at player performances here and there with self-conscious dispassion. Five minutes with Guitar Freaks and maybe you’ll be a rock God to them; five minutes with King of Fighters, you’ll probably be a laughing stock: either way, you won’t know.

Upstairs, to the right of the central escalator that runs like a spinal column up from the building entrance to its summit, stands a Dance Dance Revolution cabinet. It holds pride of place, dominating the scene with its bulk and neon and noise. It must still be the operator’s highest earning machine to warrant such a valuable location.

All around a crowd of teenagers and young twenty-somethings loiter. They are not here to play. They are here to perform and to be performed to. Here, in this spot, at this moment, London is sober. And, yes: she’s about to dance at you.

The rows of teenagers ripple out from the spectacle at their centre, each one carefully posed with care-less hunches, eyes fixed on the two alpha teens perching elbows on the machine’s rest bars. As the japmash of beats begins to stab the air through the machine’s oversized speakers their legs flurry, bodies twisting in staccato with the game’s directional arrows. Perfect, Perfect, Very Good, Perfect. It might not be dancing in the strict sense – more foot-controlled Simon Says – but it dazzles.

The song ends with the crack of a processed snare and both men step down from the platform, sweating and exhaling but also basking in cathode kudos. Both walk away with a kind of slow motion bluster, seeking to hide any trace of the extreme exertion they've undergone, pretending this is the most natural thing in the world so what the hell are you staring at anyway?

Up steps a short, fat man, mid-to-late thirties, undoubtedly American although he doesn’t say a word. He wears tight jeans crowned by a bright orange bum bag slung over his hip, a holster for the tools of tourism.

His walk is affected, like he’s trying to converse in the physical vocabulary of the group around him, but his awkwardness betrays his otherness. There is an audible inhalation from the crowd as he adds his coin to the line of game reservations resting at the bottom of the screen. All spectators' eyes meet straight for the first time: is this guy for real?

Five minutes later it is his turn. He steps to the platform with a heavy foot and the buzz raises in pitch, crowd all whisper and jostle. In Dance Dance Revolution there are a number of ways you can play. The most straightforward is single player, single mat where you have to step in time to the music over just the four directional arrows of a compass. Up, down, left and right.

There is space on the platform for two players to do this simultaneously, side by side playing against each other each on their own four-arrowed section. But for those who are exceptionally talented, rehearsed or ignorant of the challenge it represents, it is possible to play single player ‘double’, whereby you must step complicated patterns over both the 1 and 2 player sides of the platform.

The flurry of directional commands snakes across the machine and the whole exercise becomes far more physical as players have to move their body across a wider area in an effort to hit the pads in both time and space.

The buzz carries a single question: is this man exceptionally talented or exceptionally stupid as he selects to play across both set of pads on the hardest song? More than half the watchers presume he’s blindly picking options he has no understanding of. No-one considers the truth, that this fumbling, pausing and scratching of head is pure pantomime: baiting for a switch that happen seconds later.

For the next eight or so minutes the crowd watch agog, immovable, exchanging smiles, nods and head-shaking disbelief with each other. The dancer never misses a beat. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Then, at the climax of his startling performance he jumps from the machine with a slim but victorious smile and tears off down the escalator, twenty pairs of eyes and glory trailing off behind him.

The crowd dissipates into the cold night outside, smiling to itself, drunk on wonder.