Streamer Peekingboo in a rare shot that doesn't include his legs, via Twitter.
The thing about Peekingboo's craft is that it never looks effortless. Yes, he is the foremost expert on beating uber-precise video games with a Dance Dance Revolution pad (admittedly not a heavily contested title), and he is undoubtedly the proud owner of the most dexterous feet on Twitch, but if you tune into his stream you are going to watch him die a lot.
Here he is taking on the pixiedust indie platformer Celeste. The camera is placed off in the deep-corner pocket of his bedroom, showcasing the bottom half of Peekingboo's body—tall, angular, in racing-stripe patterned basketball shorts. With one foot he guides Celeste's tightly wound dashes with the four neon arrows at his feet, and more often than not, she plunges to her death. After about 15 minutes Peekingboo finally gets it. Celeste flings herself across the finish line, and Peekingboo is off to the next level, which will unfortunately take him nearly twice as long. Playing these kinds of games with a DDR pad stands as one of the most self-flagellatory pieces of performance art in the brief history of streaming—as ludicrous as it is uniquely committed.
"It started as a bit of a joke with my friend, we were both Dance Dance Revolution players, and had been for over seven years," says Peekingboo, from Perth, Western Australia, as he recalls the origin story of his vision quest. "We thought it would be funny to hook up a NES emulator and see if we could play Super Mario Bros. 3 [with the dance pad.] Things just sort of escalated from there."
Feet placement is everything, says Peekingboo. He stands between two dancepads and makes sure to map the most-used buttons (left click, right click, WASD) as close to the center as possible. The more fringe functions (think option and select) are sent off to the corners. He's developed his own shorthand phraseology to express some of the more advanced nuances, like "heel-toeing," the art of holding down two buttons at once with one foot—which is obviously super necessary as you sprint-jump through tough Mario gauntlets.
"In Celeste you need to grip walls while jumping up them, and in Cuphead you need to hold the shoot button while jumping around," explains Peekingboo. "All of these games are fundamentally different but the controls are mapped almost identically with the jump button being on the player-two down arrow, and the supporting action being on the player-two left arrow. It follows the natural idle direction your feet follow."
Peekingboo doesn't have a particularly salient explanation for his self-imposed controller asceticism, and instead expresses it to me as a more spiritual calling. Rhythm gamers are notoriously hard on themselves—there are still people out there beating old Guitar Hero tracks on 150 percent speed to ramp up the challenge—so perhaps it makes sense that one of their kin would take that to wildly incongruous levels. "The thrill and excitement I felt while playing Mario 3 resonated with me, and motivated me to start a Twitch channel of my own so I could see what else I was capable of," he says.
It's clearly working. You can now count on Peekingboo to beat practically every new release with the dancepad, and that's already earned him 10,000 followers on the site. More recently he's started to speedrun Super Mario Galaxy with his feet under a brand he calls "SpeedStomp," and he already has that beast down to a svelte five hours in the any-percent category. Obviously he tends to favor games that exponentially increase in difficulty when you throw in a monkey wrench, but I think my favorites are when he takes on Undertale or Pokemon—lengthy, story-heavy odysseys that don't necessarily get harder with the addition of a dancepad. Instead they're just more arduous, more annoying, and more existentially daunting. It makes me want Peekingboo to take on a beast like Dragon Age Inquisition or Persona 5, to truly measure his endurance.
Perhaps someday he will clean out the catalog, but until then he keeps a running list of the difficulty of each game he's beaten. The easiest, unsurprisingly, were Pokemon Yellow and Super Mario RPG. The hardest was Cave Story, which he describes as one of the few times he felt like he'd bitten off more than he could chew. If you're unfamiliar with that game, it ends with an absolute motherfucker of a boss rush that demands you be mobile, technically sound, and well-geared.
"The punishment you incur from taking too many hits turned the end of the game into a seemingly endless struggle," says Peekingboo. The 50-minute finale leaves him out of breath and on the brink of giving up—a simple reminder that no matter how good you might think you are, there are certain games that are simply not meant to be played with your feet.
Still, that experience hasn't dampened Peekingboo's motivation. He's still working his way through Mike Tyson's Punchout with the dancepad, which itself is a game that has demolished millions of players on ordinary controllers for decades. He calls that one of his dream accomplishments, and if he manages to get it done someday, I think it's only fair to induct him into the video game hall of fame. Until then, Peekingboo will remain the hardest dancing streamer on Twitch, and it's tough to imagine him losing that distinction any time soon.