"That's it. I am never playing a Kinect game again."
I said this under my breath at a recent game expo, after surviving what I deemed my last controller-free gaming experience. Obviously this was an emotional overreaction, but the reasoning behind my Hulk-Smash attitude was sound.
I've always excelled at making a complete ass of myself: On Nickelodeon, millions of kids watched me jump around like a freaked out maniac every Saturday night (see above), and these days I make videos where I get drunk for video game science. My mother is extremely proud.
But despite my outgoing, ready-for-anything personality, the act of Kinect-ing in front of a crowd nearly sends me spiraling into a panic attack. I feel nervous and stupid, with unbearable frustration whenever the system doesn't respond immediately with the level of accuracy and perfection I expect as a gamer. I'm up there like a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man, and the more people that gather to watch me, the worse I do! At least with the Wii I could white-knuckle the Nunchuck to keep me from a rage fit, but with nothing to hold, nowhere to run, and a game blinking at me to suck less, I start sweating like a hooker in church. (–Victor Sullivan, Uncharted 2.)
Here's the kicker: I could overcome my hatred of playing the Kinect if it proved to me that I should.
The Kinect was an exciting piece of technology when it Cirque du Soleil'd onto the gaming scene last November, wowing both casual and core gamers, and dropping the jaws of entire Oprah audiences. But here we are, almost five months later. Where are the interesting releases? Wait, where are the releases period? Why should I continue to care about a $150 piece of hardware that, essentially, has allowed me to dance, play sports, and interact with animals, all of which are activities I could do if I just went outside?
If I didn't know any better, I'd say this is a Billy Flynn "Razzle Dazzle" situation – blind consumers with glitz and hype so they don't notice the serious lack of game innovation to go along with this innovative product. In fact, the most interesting part of the Kinect, by far, has been watching intrepid, tech-savvy modders unassociated with Microsoft use the Kinect technology in ways never intended. Even mere weeks after its release, we got the Self-Driving Mini Car and the Roomba KinectBot and this flying thing – ingenuity that Microsoft initially condemned! (Before flip-flopping on that stance like a beached trout, of course.)
The Kinect is not a bad thing. I'm not saying we should invade Microsoft H.Q. with torches and pitchforks. (YET.) From what I can tell, casual gaming families have been thoroughly enjoying their Kinect systems, and after all – let's say it together – games are about fun. If Kinect-lovers are still having a ball prancing around their living rooms, breaking lamps and injuring toddlers, hey, more power to ‘em!
The unfortunate part is that Excited Consumer A, who stood in line at a Kinect midnight launch so they could be the first on their block to own it, still has approximately the same amount of game options as Meh Consumer B, who just bought Kinect yesterday, probably on sale. Not to mention these game options are mostly Wii-esque shovelware. It's as if the thought process is, "No one's going to care what games are available for the exciting product – people just want to play with the exciting product, so they'll buy anything."
I understand it takes a while to develop interesting games for new technology. We had to wait almost a year until Metroid Prime 3 and over a year to get No More Heroes after the Wii debuted. But please, throw us a bone here. Core gamers are still looking for a reason to care about the Kinect, because we can see through the razzle dazzle of it all.
It's going to take quite the title for me to re-set-up my Kinect and apologize for all my insults. ("Look Kinect, we all said things we didn't mean…"), but the future is not entirely grim. Child of Eden looks intriguing and beautiful and the incorporation of motion in Forza 4 has piqued my interest. I would say the same about Gears of War 3 utilizing Kinect, but Cliffy already stomped that rumor with his big, burly, rumor-squashing man boots. (Editor's note: So we'll have to wait for Gears Kinect instead, I guess.)
Above all, if I have to play Kinect games, is it too much to ask to not want to feel stupid? As a core gamer, I don't want a flashy dance game that makes me pose like a peeing dog – I want clean games that recognize subtle motions with mind-blowing accuracy, because I know it's possible. No more half-assed motion technology for me – doctor says my blood pressure still hasn't come down from my Wii Tennis days.
Kotaku columnist Lisa Foiles is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as a graphic designer and writes for her game site, Save Point. For more info, visit Lisa's official website.