Xbox Kinect – In a Word: ‘Schmeh’

Since it is only a matter of days until the release of Kinect, I thought I would attempt to be useful and share my thoughts on the new addition to the wallet-raping, user-friendly Microsoft family. Back in August, as part of my birthday treat, I got to attend the Xbox Kinect trials in London’s Covent Garden with Billy and my mum for 30 minutes of intimate alone time with what could potentially be my new lover.

We were greeted at the door by a campsite, I had no idea Kinect had such a huge gay following. A beautiful man with perfect hair and trousers so tight I could see what he had for breakfast approached us and introduced himself as Jonathan before grabbing my hand and skipping towards a stage.  He was putting on a headset. Oh god, please don’t put on a headset.  I don’t like participating in things that involve headsets. Turns out we were a ‘smidge’ early so “Wouldn’t it be great to kill ten minutes by trying out the Kinect on this here stage?”.  I grudgingly agreed but it wasn’t until I was up there I realized that the fire exit doors onto Covent Garden were wide open and people were, in fact, paying attention to what was going on inside.  Then it happened……..the intro to Poker Face by my nemesis, Lady Gaga, blasted out into the room and I panicked.  I asked Jonathan what the hell was going on and he replied “Oh, it’s our new dance game called ‘Dance Central’ and it’s starting right about now…..and left and right, come on, jump and step….”. I wanted to die a little bit but I’m not gonna lie, by half way through you couldn’t get me off the stage.  Until, that was, he said these words: “Okay, now here comes the freestyle bit, you just do whatever you want, I think it would look great if you did something a bit sexy, show me sexy girlfriend!”.  I just looked at Billy like a rabbit in the headlights. He knows what happens when I try to do sexy. Thankfully right at that moment our private room was ready so I ran away from him. I don’t even think he noticed.

We arrived at our room which was (thankfully) much less eventful, and got stuck into three games:
Kinect Joyride
Kinect Adventures
Kinect Sports

You may notice that the titles of these games sound a bit familiar.  Replace the word ‘Kinect’ with ‘Wii’ and you could be looking at a list of avatar games released by Nintendo. I wish that was where the similarities ended. Like the Wii, you are in control of an avatar but instead of using a wand you use your hand. Joyride is a driving game in which you hold an imaginary steering wheel to drive around. Adventures is a duck and jump type game with rapids and obstacle courses and Sports is……well you can guess; the usual bowling, hurdles etc.  I was so confused!  Surely they knew that we would notice? Could they just not be arsed?

Having only avatar games to choose from at the trials makes it hard for me to form a fair opinion on just how worthwhile a purchase the Kinect will be.  Thankfully though there are other games in the Kinect collection that will be more suited to the controller-free selling point, and I think it will come into its own as a fitness aid.  The ability to participate without having to hold a sweaty wand in your hand will probably ensure that the Kinect will be preferred by weirdo fitness freaks the world over.  There is no need for a board or anything, you just do what the game tells you to and BAM, you’re thin. Unfortunately this also means that there will be a reduction in the amount of articles in The Sun discussing the latest child to get nailed in the face by a flying controller but you’ve got to take the good with the bad I suppose.  

One thing that did surprise me was how well the sensors worked.  I was prepared for frustration when it didn’t do the things I wanted it to, but there was none of that.  The device works well and so allows you to focus entirely on the game instead of worrying about where that fucking Wii hand icon thing has gone. At one point I scratched my nose and my avatar did too! Yes, I am that easily impressed!  

I don’t know how they are going to approach any RPG games that they may release.  They could be great, and I hope they are, but I have a feeling that they probably won’t be.  I really liked Zelda on the Wii so it can be done but I think, at least for the moment, keeping the focus on lifestyle games is probably a clever move.  The Dance Central game was shit-hot and has given me the GREATEST idea. Imagine, everyone buys the Kinect and practices the dance to Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison. You could turn up at a club, get the DJ to stick it on and voilà, the entire club is spontaneously performing the same routine.  It would be like a scene from High School Musical except not shit! Let’s do it!            

Looking back, I did enjoy the day but was disappointed at how little Microsoft had moved away from the Wii with their signature games.  Fitness and dancing games aside, the fact that you don’t have a controller is not an original enough concept to stand on its own.  There are quiet mumblings of 3D graphics being incorporated into the Kinect so I am going to view this as a kind of midway point between the Atari and a full on Holodeck.  Slowly but surely we are getting there, and at the end of the day I am going buy one anyway, Lady Gaga and I have some unfinished business to attend to.  

A respectable but slightly disappointing 3 fists from me: 

For your viewing pleasure.  A very flattering video of Billy and I participating in the Xbox Kinect trials in London:

Jillian & Billy – Xbox Kinect Trials

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