I heard great things about Mother Nature last week at the Games For Change conference in New York City. I heard one of the conference's experts suggest that it might be the best Kinect game he's ever played.
If you know what Kinect is, then you may know that there aren't many (any?) great games for Microsoft's hot controller-free sensor system. I remain a curious optimist, though, so I invited one of Mother Nature's creators, Diane Tucker, to demonstrate the game in Kotaku's New York City office.
I regret that we didn't have a better shooting set up. My fault, not hers. But I hope you can watch the video in this story appreciate what was happening: simple, pleasant, distinct and gentle gestures used to manage a small eco-system.
Mother Nature is, essentially, a god game via Kinect. Its controls are smartly elegant.
Wave your arm high in a lasso gesture to summon clouds. Summon a bunch to make a rain cloud. Drum the air to make it rain. Lasso at middle height to blow seeds into the scene. Water some more. Raise your arms to make the scenes grow. Water and grow. Water and grow. Grow flowers to attract spiders. Spiders will block grasshoppers. Let flowers attract birds. Birds drop grass seed. Water the grass. Attract a field mouse. Etc, etc, until a snake shows up.
Mother Nature is in only the prototype stages, though. So you can download it and run it off Windows to see what you think of it.
The game was created by Tucker and a team of about 20 aspiring creators. It was designed and developed at the Interactive Media Division of University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. It received the support of the MXR Lab at the USC's Institute for Creative Technologies and was made with the help of Open NI. Tucker hopes that a publisher will be interested in the game so that everyone can play a more elaborate version of what you see here, possibly on the Xbox 360. It could help kids learn about nature. And it could give me something else to like about my Kinect other than Dance Central and Kinectimals. [Note: This paragraph was updated on April 7, 2013 to clarify the roles of the various groups involved in the game's creation.]