When Microsoft first unveiled the Kinect not many gamers I knew had quite the same reaction that I did. Most laughed it off, talked about how stupid it looked and wrote it off altogether without even giving it a shot. Those gamers didnít get it; many still donít. Certainly, MS was showing some games and technology to appeal to a larger, more casual audience, but is that all they were doing?
In the words of Al ďtable for oneĒ Borland: ďI donít think so, Tim.Ē
Microsoft wasnít showing off just another gaming peripheral, they were giving us a glimpse into the future of media and control.
Forget games for a moment; weíll come back to that, the thing I was most excited about with Kinect was the UI and media control. Kinect goes beyond gaming and allows for new control of other media types including movies and music. Playing movies and songs with voice commands is slick. Being able to scrub through movies with a wave of your hand? Even more so.
By integrating Kinect control into some of the most prominent XBL services such as NetFlix, ESPN and Last.fm, Microsoft is paving the road for a full, controller-free entertainment environment on the Xbox 360. Earlier this year they promised to deliver a new dashboard update that allows for full dashboard control via Kinect. Thatís something that I canít wait to try. Navigating a user interface without the need for a controller still hasnít quite been perfected, but Kinect marks the best attempt Iíve seen so far and from the looks of things, itís only going to get better at it.
While Kinect will continue to improve in its handling of other media experiences, it will also improve on the gaming front. Not that we havenít seen some good games already; I still havenít tired of Dance Central. Kinectimals also makes pretty good use of the technology if you're willing to give it a chance. Perhaps the best evidence of Kinectís usefulness in gaming is the recently released Child of Eden.
Kinect is an essential part of the Child of Eden experience
Hereís a game that isnít merely enhanced by Kinect, but actually requires it to be fully experienced and appreciated. After playing the game with nothing between you and the action on screen, it is not just difficult to go back to using a controller, but unthinkable. I challenge anyone to play it both ways and honestly say otherwise. This game alone proves that motion control has a place in our industry, even among the not-so-casual.
The future for Kinect looks bright. Some games will use Kinect in supportive roles such as the head tracking in Forza, the weapon customization in Ghost Recon or the voice commands in Mass Effect 3. Still others will be crafted around motion control such as Rise of Nightmares, The Gunstringer and Konamiís LeedMees. I can only speak for myself here, but I think those games look like a lot of fun. Especially LeedMees which is putting an innovative twist on puzzle games by allowing you to use your body as a platform for the characters in the game.
LeedMees: a unique use of the Kinect technology
We as gamers have the right to complain when developers cram motion control support into a poorly made game, but we should also respect the developers who create experiences properly with motion control in mind from the beginning. The automatic and vehement hatred I see from many traditional gamers when it comes to motion controlled games is striking. The very audience that clamors for innovation then fiercely rejects it when it comes along.
The new types of games coming out for Kinect may not be tailored to an individualís specific tastes, but that doesnít make them any less valid as games. They may very well attract a new audience. A new ďhardcoreĒ that differs from what the industry has seen in the past.
The traditional toys such as Halo and Gears of War, Super Mario and Uncharted are still around; theyíre not being replaced. I, as a gamer since the mid 1980ís, embrace this addition to our rich and storied medium. I invite you to do the same.