How I Used to Press Buttons Before the Kinect

After watching the Microsoft E3 2010 press conference and seeing Kinect I’ve decided to consider the potential pros and cons of this device for people like me. Based on what I’ve seen and heard about this device, there are no buttons involved with the experience – it’s just your hands, voice, and the Kinect motion sensor – no controller! Of course, this sounds great on paper, but after viewing the current line-up of Kinect titles and seeing the hardware in action, I find myself disappointed and unenthusiastic. I say this because after seeing this demonstration, I realized just how important buttons and controllers actually are to the “hardcore” gaming experience. I hate using labels like “hardcore” because everyone is unique in their preferences, but it is the easiest way to separate the two different types of games, which are obviously designed for two different types of consumers.

When I first heard that there was a Star Wars game for Kinect, I thought, “Wow, that should be cool since this advanced motion-tracking device will let me battle it out in some insane lightsaber battles!” However, when I saw the demonstration at E3, what I got instead was a soulless rail-shooter. And that’s when it hit me; Kinect at its current level will never fully support a “hardcore” gaming experience. Instead of having free-movement, the character in the Star Wars game moves with some sort of “force charge” and everything looks extremely scripted. But why do Kinect games have to be this way? Without a controller, Kinect limits developers to what they can do since people cannot roam freely when playing Kinect games; if they did, then they would be running into their TV, couch, or friends and pets. So, instead of getting the next Perfect Dark game with full Kinect support, a title which could have possibly challenged Halo and Call of Duty (top selling games) if Rare tried hard enough, I’m stuck with some sort of awkward hurdle-jumping game. I’m so happy to see Microsoft putting this legendary developer’s skills to good use! Seriously though, there is a good reason why I’ve been using those controller things for so many years, and that’s so I can walk wherever I want in my damn games!

There is also another vital element to the “hardcore” experience, which is lost when using just your hands in gaming. With a controller, you get some sort of feedback for your actions, whether it is rumble or just actually holding something in your hands – it adds to the overall experience. On the other hand, with Kinect you are stuck touching air with your hands. Consequently, when kids “pet” animals in the air with Kinect, they will not get any kind of true feedback from it, just the reaction of the “kinectimal” on the screen; similarly, racing with Kinect using an air steering wheel will not truly enhance the experience as much as a racing wheel peripheral could. So then, I feel that the controllerless experience at it’s current level is not good enough to satisfy people like me.

Some may say that I am making a huge mistake in criticizing this new piece of hardware because I’m confusing the targeted audience. It’s true that these games are not designed for people like me. As a young man with no kids, I’m obviously not attracted to a game like Kinectimals and my expectations as a longtime gamer are much different than the average person who has no distinct interest in gaming as a hobby. But my issue here is that Microsoft could have used this hardware for much more than just a few wannabe Wii HD titles, and the absence of a controller severally limits its potential of becoming something more than just that, a Wii HD.

Of course, not all hope is lost, I see developers using Kinect’s features in subtle ways with “hardcore” games – maybe designing a game that implements the voice interactivity of Kinect, or at least giving the player the option to use their hands to open doors, hold, and pick up items instead of using a controller. The potential for fitness games is also evident with Ubisoft’s addition to the Kinict library, and the system certainly forces the player to move their body a lot. But whether or not this new piece of hardware will actually be worth it to a person like me – a person who is not only an avid gamer, but also a pet owner, weightlifter, runner, and already does a twenty-minute stretching routine daily without a videogame to help – is uncertain. Okay, maybe I’m making it too obvious… right now Kinect looks fairly worthless to me, and it’s painful to see Microsoft consider only their casual audience with Kinect at the moment when Sony addresses both with Move, and Nintendo is starting to respect both with a slew of new “hardcore” titles announced at their E3 press conference this year.

2 thoughts on “How I Used to Press Buttons Before the Kinect

  1. totally agree. voice recognition is really the only thing that impressed me and navigating the menu with your hand, but seriously whats to stop sony from implementing these features. the ps eye tracks movement and has 4 way microphone, i can see this working fine on ps3. i have a ps eye and video chat without headset and voice chat while playing games without a headset has been there since the eye came out. i do see the whole swiping your hand to naivgate the menus getting old as it probably takes longer to access something than a regular controller. i liked playstation move way better, seems like the best of both worlds, the camera along with motion controls will prove superior than the wii or kinect. sorcery looked awesome. i think really whats cool about move is the use of two move controllers at once.

  2. Just because they showed only casual kinect stuff at E3 there’s no reason to believe Microsoft has no plans for hardcore uses.

    In fact, I predict that by the end of the year they will reveal kinect’s most amazing hardcore feature- the ability to do head tracking in tandem with the regular controller. It will be used to create a psudo depth style 3d- like that recent downloadable ds game from japan, and it will be kick ass.

    Just wait and see!!!!

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