The Kinect, better than I thought. No...really

Posted by SonicFire (821 posts) -

It feels good to attempt writing again. Considering that I used to make my living doing it, stopping for any length of time just feels strange. But my blog post hiatus has more to do with injury than anything. I managed somehow to break my thumb in the midst of recovering from a spinal injury. My dogged insistence on playing games hasn't exactly expedited the healing process. Nevertheless, it's a perfect segue into discussing Microsoft's Kinect, because functional thumbs are not required to play! 
 
Like many, I received the Kinect for Christmas. Originally, I thought the thing seemed ridiculous, but after watching Giant Bomb's full day of Kinect streams, it began to appear interesting. So, I added it to my short list of stuff that I wanted (but not enough to buy myself) and ended up getting it, along with a few games. After a couple of days of "dancing" and generally flailing around like an idiot, I have some initial impressions that I feel are a little different from the general concencus of the gaming press: 
 
1) Not having a controller is kinda cool - when Project Natal was first announced, I, like many, assumed that the lack of a controller was going to be a problem. But there is a genuine tactile feel to navigating menus with hand gestures. While it's not quite Minority Report, it has elements of it. When those systems work, it still feels like some kind of techno-voodoo magic, at least to me.  It's still the first application of such a technology (on a massive scale), so it will be interesting to see how it progresses.
 
2) Space and location requirements do limit the system - Right now, I'm fortunate to be playing in a house, and in front of a large TV with room to move. Unfortunately, both of these things are necessary. If you're on a mid or upper-level apartment with cramped space, Kinect is not going to work. I'm sure this is something that can be improved upon, but if you own the suggested room configuration (rec room, man cave, etc.) then Kinect doesn't appear to have much of a problem. 
 
3) Physical fitness level is a factor - with no disrespect intended for the GB crew, or for game journalists in general, I can't help but feel that some of the dismissive remarks afforded Kinect and its launch line up are related to fitness, or the lack thereof. Most of these games, including Kinect Adventures, require the player to be very active, move, and jump around in an anaerobic fashion. As an avid weightlifter and runner, I loved the fact that a game can make me build up a good sweat. But I can easily see that for those not so fitness-inclined, it could be an irritation, one that gets old way too quick. Years of attempting to train friends and family have also taught me that even if players buy kinect to stay in shape, no fitness regimen will stick with out serious determination and commitment, which no game can create. In general then, it's probably a little easier for fit people to get into games like Kinect Adventures or Dance Central. 
 
4) The Concept of "game" is flexible - Like most gamers, and like many in the gaming press, I can't consider most of the Kinect launch titles "games' in the traditional hardcore sense. I've been the first in line to get frustrated at the overwhelming popularity of casual games, and with my love of RPGs and FPS titles, I probably embody the concept of the "core" gamer to the exclusion of all alse. But admittedly, there is space for casual games, and there is space for kinect games. At the moment, I don't see Kinect titles being narrative, immersive experiences, nor can I envision them as accurate shooters or platformers; however, they're certainly games, albeit of a casual nature - there still exists the senses of progression and accomplishment as in many other genres, but for the immediate future, I'm satisfied with simply adding a new dimension to casual play. 
 
I suppose I'm writing these comments because my own experiences with the system seem different than a lot of what I heard. Overall, it's much better. To summarize, if you have the space needed, and don't mind moving around quite a bit, it's probably going to be fun for you. Conversely, if you don't want to leave the couch (not that there's anything wrong with that), I can't imagine it being much fun beyond a single evening. As with all things, there are some issues. For example, there is an input lag in the device, but seeing as the experience unique, it's not enough of a distraction for me to mind. The Kinect is my first foray into "casual" game styles, and I look forward to seeing what developers and Microsoft alike can to with the tech.  
#1 Posted by SonicFire (821 posts) -

It feels good to attempt writing again. Considering that I used to make my living doing it, stopping for any length of time just feels strange. But my blog post hiatus has more to do with injury than anything. I managed somehow to break my thumb in the midst of recovering from a spinal injury. My dogged insistence on playing games hasn't exactly expedited the healing process. Nevertheless, it's a perfect segue into discussing Microsoft's Kinect, because functional thumbs are not required to play! 
 
Like many, I received the Kinect for Christmas. Originally, I thought the thing seemed ridiculous, but after watching Giant Bomb's full day of Kinect streams, it began to appear interesting. So, I added it to my short list of stuff that I wanted (but not enough to buy myself) and ended up getting it, along with a few games. After a couple of days of "dancing" and generally flailing around like an idiot, I have some initial impressions that I feel are a little different from the general concencus of the gaming press: 
 
1) Not having a controller is kinda cool - when Project Natal was first announced, I, like many, assumed that the lack of a controller was going to be a problem. But there is a genuine tactile feel to navigating menus with hand gestures. While it's not quite Minority Report, it has elements of it. When those systems work, it still feels like some kind of techno-voodoo magic, at least to me.  It's still the first application of such a technology (on a massive scale), so it will be interesting to see how it progresses.
 
2) Space and location requirements do limit the system - Right now, I'm fortunate to be playing in a house, and in front of a large TV with room to move. Unfortunately, both of these things are necessary. If you're on a mid or upper-level apartment with cramped space, Kinect is not going to work. I'm sure this is something that can be improved upon, but if you own the suggested room configuration (rec room, man cave, etc.) then Kinect doesn't appear to have much of a problem. 
 
3) Physical fitness level is a factor - with no disrespect intended for the GB crew, or for game journalists in general, I can't help but feel that some of the dismissive remarks afforded Kinect and its launch line up are related to fitness, or the lack thereof. Most of these games, including Kinect Adventures, require the player to be very active, move, and jump around in an anaerobic fashion. As an avid weightlifter and runner, I loved the fact that a game can make me build up a good sweat. But I can easily see that for those not so fitness-inclined, it could be an irritation, one that gets old way too quick. Years of attempting to train friends and family have also taught me that even if players buy kinect to stay in shape, no fitness regimen will stick with out serious determination and commitment, which no game can create. In general then, it's probably a little easier for fit people to get into games like Kinect Adventures or Dance Central. 
 
4) The Concept of "game" is flexible - Like most gamers, and like many in the gaming press, I can't consider most of the Kinect launch titles "games' in the traditional hardcore sense. I've been the first in line to get frustrated at the overwhelming popularity of casual games, and with my love of RPGs and FPS titles, I probably embody the concept of the "core" gamer to the exclusion of all alse. But admittedly, there is space for casual games, and there is space for kinect games. At the moment, I don't see Kinect titles being narrative, immersive experiences, nor can I envision them as accurate shooters or platformers; however, they're certainly games, albeit of a casual nature - there still exists the senses of progression and accomplishment as in many other genres, but for the immediate future, I'm satisfied with simply adding a new dimension to casual play. 
 
I suppose I'm writing these comments because my own experiences with the system seem different than a lot of what I heard. Overall, it's much better. To summarize, if you have the space needed, and don't mind moving around quite a bit, it's probably going to be fun for you. Conversely, if you don't want to leave the couch (not that there's anything wrong with that), I can't imagine it being much fun beyond a single evening. As with all things, there are some issues. For example, there is an input lag in the device, but seeing as the experience unique, it's not enough of a distraction for me to mind. The Kinect is my first foray into "casual" game styles, and I look forward to seeing what developers and Microsoft alike can to with the tech.  
#2 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -

I think the problem with regard to fitness would be more repetitive motion more than general health, and that's down the designer of the game. If they have you doing the same thing over and over again, you're likely to just pause or quit rather than get a stress injury on a joint. What they need to bear in mind is doing a range of different things...  then it'll come down to fitness like you say. That may be a barrier to some players, but so is manual dexterity to other potential players. 
 
What would be really neat is to combine the use of a standard controller with the kinect sensor, so you could still have the detail of button systems but be able to expand into other things for, say, quick time events.  You don't have to see a button prompt, you just have ways for your character to dodge, and you have to wave the controller around to get out of the way.  
 
Still further, you could have all sorts of side-systems.  Say you're James Bond having a drink in a cocktail club, trying to locate a spy. You have to maintain a certain posture when talking to people, have to "look natural".  When you see on the screen where the guy is, your signal to the operative who is supposed to distract the spy is to put your drink down (through a pre-planned motion of lowering your right arm).  If you do anything else, the spy's bodyguards may notice that you notice HIM, and be able to detain you long enough for the spy to escape.

#3 Posted by 02sfraser (847 posts) -

I think Kinect is great and I'm really interested in what content will be made on it. Only problem is the way Microsoft marketed it by saying they were going to change gaming forever. There not. With the lack of any control for things like FPS and adventure games you're still going to need a classic controller to get around even the smallest of worlds. Also I think a lot of the hacks show the technology of better than any of the games.

#4 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
@02sfraser: That's a good point about it not being good for every game. I think people try to just be ahead of the game and predict the Next New Controller, when controllers are only good if they fit the game they're hooked up to. Kinect will allow for different types of controls for different stuff, but if they want to make it the next FPS controller or whatever they'll either have to find some ingenious way to make things super complicated or just be realistic and stick to things that the controller can actually do well.
#5 Posted by l4wd0g (1913 posts) -

I really only use my Kinect for Dance Central and The Biggest Loser. It work remarkably well. I wouldn't be suprised if future (far more precise)  versions of Kinect change the way we use PCs forever. 
 
For me and my family it was well worth the $150 price of admission.

#6 Posted by JJWeatherman (14557 posts) -

Good write-up. 
 
I'm still getting a feel for my Kinect, but I'll probably write about it similarly in a week or two. 
 
I need more games.  :(

#7 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

Sonic Free Riders worked WAAAY better for me than it did for the GB crew. I can actually control the game. I can turn sharp and make jumps. You just have to be doing the motions right. It is a really cool game.

#8 Posted by SuperSambo (2854 posts) -

I was against kinect to begin with, but as soon as it released I was tempted. A few days ago I bought it on impulse and I love it! Got Dance Central, Your Shape, Kinect Sports and Kinect Adventures and enjoy them all.

Only problem is that I just dislocated my shoulder so won't be able to play it for awhile! The same day I bough EA Active and The Biggest Loser as well...

#9 Posted by SonicFire (821 posts) -
@ahoodedfigure:
You make some very valid points. Thanks for that. I think repetitive motion can be a problem for some, including those like myself having a history of joint problems, as well as a few surgeries to boot. But general cardiovascular fitness is a major factor. I learned this last weekend when I took my system to a friend's house, where a group of people played all weekend. After a few songs in dance central, my friends were winded and exhausted, and I'd not come close to breaking a sweat (these friends aren't obese, but not active in exercise). Now, I don't mean that as  a value judgement, just that for those reviewing the system, it was undoubtedly relevant. If you can only play flat out for 10 minutes at a time, you're more likely to think of the Kinect as a gimmick than someone who can play it for a couple hours.
#10 Posted by SonicFire (821 posts) -
@ahoodedfigure:
Oh yes, and I do like your other ideas as well. I don't think  that Kinect is accurate enough yet for things like your spy adventure, but the future applications look quite promising!

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