By SonicFire 10 Comments
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.