E3 Diary: The Future Of Humanity

I was at Microsoft's high concept "Project Natal Experience" event last night. Like almost all the assembled guests, I came away shaking my head.

It was easily the most baffling and bizarre gaming event I've attended. The clash of whimsical performance art and ultra-casual gaming left many of us asking just what the hell Microsoft was up to.

Garbed in white ponchos with oversized shoulder pads, the throng of media and industry people squeezed onto the floor and surrounding tiered seats was a ridiculous sight. I was on the standing room only floor area where dancers dressed in nymphlike outfits tumbled and shimmied all around. It was a bemusing experience.

A voice bellowed out that technology has been using us for too long. It then asked a question of epically vacuous proportions: what if the future of humanity... was humanity itself?

A little boy climbed the mountain set up as a stage at one end of the room. At each step he pulled out an Xbox controller and played a traditional Xbox game: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Kameo and one I didn't recognised. When he reached the top, he no longer needed a controller.

And Kinect was unveiled.

The Cirque du Soleil dancers gave way to a plastic nuclear family, perma-grinning their way through a series of unnamed Kinect titles. We watched kids driving karts by leaning left and right; mum doing her daily workout; dad running on the spot in the 100m sprint.

It soon became clear that there was a disconnect (pun intended) between the event and its audience. A room full of traditional gamers was inevitably cynical about such casual games. But that's the thing: they're not for us.

Kinect is for your mum, your grandad, your four year old kid who has never played games. At least, that's what the lineup of launch titles tells us.

Kinect is about tapping into a wider audience than gaming hasn't been able to interest before.

And that's why Microsoft held this event. It was done for TV. This event is being shown in primetime TV all over the world. People who don't care for games will tune in to see Cirque du Soleil. And, Microsoft hopes, they'll see this Kinect thing and think "Hey, that looks like fun."

More importantly, they'll think "Hey, I can do that."

Whether Microsoft is right about that remains to be seen.


Comments

    I was up at 5am (17 month old who didn't want to sleep, or just wanted to watch that micrsoft thingy) and I watched it off my IQ (Fxotel).

    I felt the same about the line up and the types of games. I quickly realised that while I didn't care for anything that was shown, it didn't matter because i am already a gamer. I have a controller, fantastic line up of games and I am happy. I also like playing on the couch so this is prob not for me anyway.

    Funny you mention kids because I was watching with my son and when that tiger game (Kinectimals?) was shown, he was up at the TV looking at the tiger. I was actually most impressed by this and if there is a reason for me to get one, this game and my son would actually be the reason.

    I had to also laugh when I saw one of the launch titles was ZUMBA. You know that crappy infomercial that is one when most of us are playing games about latin style dancing as a source of weight loss. I saw no less than 3 fitness games for release.

      Kinect's games don't interest me, though the motion/voice control does appeal to my inner geek.

      But my daughter would *love* Kinectimals, and my wife (who is absolutely uninterested in games of any type) watched the fitness game demos with undisguised interest ("Zumba! Cool!"). If there was a "buy" button to push right then & there, she would have pushed it.

      Mainstream gamers & press will doubtless dismiss it (Forza sans controller? Really?) - but judging by my wife, if Microsoft can put a new/cheaper Xbox Arcade & Kinect bundle with a couple of those games in front of the wider population in November, they just might do well with it.

    I think you are dead on in regards to the demographic they are trying to appeal to.
    I find it funny that "gamers" by and large (the type that would frequent Kotaku etc) are very dismissive of Kinect - yet are also vocal in wanting gaming to be a more mainstream and less stereotyped hobby. Kinect is a bridge for many non-gamers to interact in the wider gaming community - I fail to see how that is bad for anyone, COD, Halo and the like will not be changed but the industry will prosper with a greater and far more diverse audience.
    Shovelware or not my non-gaming wife is very excited for the Kinect games shown and she currently plays only Rock Band...

    Looks like I'll be watching this presentation when I get home tonight...

    It's one thing to try to appeal to the non-gamers (old folks, families, etc), but at the same time would parents look at this and go "oh I don't know about that, they've got those other violent games on the Xbox", and just get a Wii instead?

    Hrrmmm.

    Thank you, finally it's being shown as the travesty to gaming it is... I'm at least 30% more confident it will never take off now. It's just embarrassing, even more so than the Wii. I don't believe there is a god, but I pray every day that this is not the "future" of gaming...

    If this is not for the "normal gamer" why were there so many traditional gaming journalists in attendence? I thought they would have liked to avoid the inevitable scorn of the jaded cynical games media and gone more for their target audience.

      Yeah, unveil it on the Ellen Degeneres show...

      Gaming Journalists are they only ones that will attend a Gaming Hardware press conference no matter what the audience.

      Sure they will apply some cynical wit to their thoughts but at the end of the day they'll convey the message MS are trying to get out. This isn't for button mashing experts, this is to bring your family and friends in to the fold. David's article isn't negative, its just saying the traditional controller isn't going anywhere but this motion guff with serve a 'briging audience' role.

      Many hardware gamers will pick it up and use it to get their friends or family interested in a X360. More friends online and more uses for the Xbox in the lounge room.

      I would hope gaming journalists could open their eyes a bit to the whole gaming landscape as it is - at the moment most online gaming sites are extremely cynical and only propagate that sort of attitude when they (like IGN) demand things they want and constantly rubbish new ideas.
      The medium will not develop outside the core if they remain cynical and protective of current trends. There is room for all gamers - FPS players, RPG players, casual players etc.
      Why does the industry have to write from the point of view of the so-called "hardcore" gamer?
      I enjoy ALL games, I'm glad we are in a period of time where there are games that cater to my hardcore tendancies whilst also allowing me to share them casually with friends or cooperatively online.
      This isn't a one-size fits all industry...

    Use over enthusiastic journos in an ad, genius.

    I just think that the price with the Kinect, plus it not coming out until November will price it away from my parents and grandparents etc. I don't think they will see any advantage over the wii.

    The only thing I saw that looks potentially impressive is the fitness titles. I struggle to keep fit over winter, and found the Wii with EA's fitness title to genuinely help. The full body mapping of Kinect could make for better home workouts.

    I've been saying for ages that we aren't the market for the Kinect anyway, but I can't see MS usurping Nintendo anytime soon with Kinect, and the Sony product demos in a more cool way with the wand becoming swords and tennis rackets etc. Kids will want the eye-pet, grandparents will want the wii, the new 360 looks aggressive and tacky, it doesn't fit the market they are supposedly going for. The wii is tiny and unobtrusive and looks like the oldies other appliances, and could easily be sold for half the price of the 360+Kinect come November.

    Man I woke up this morning at 3am, and just when I was amped up to see what Microsoft can do to make me finally buy their console, I was disappointed and decided will not buy Xbox360 anytime soon. Not with the way things going.

    Through the whole 2hrs, they only showed 3 games that everyone already know about. Sure new gameplay of Halo and Gears are goood, but those stuff was crapped all over by the stupid Kinect.

    I was disappointed and question myself over and over why am I spending an hour watching this torturous crap. Microsoft just became as bad as Wii Music.

    With this Sony and Nintendo won't have to do much to make their E3 more worthwhile than Microsoft's.

    I read an interview with Aaron what's his name from Microsoft, and he was saying that Kinetic was about getting the families of people who already own xbox's to enjoy games too.

    I think the product will work, but I believe MS made a miscalculation. Inviting games journalist who are going to post on games websites and in games media... the casual market doesn't go to games sites or read game press. Hence why the product knowledge of Move and Natal is so low.

    If they'd have invited mainstream media instead, it would have been more effective. Leave the press conference for the gaming press...

    Also, am I really the only one who's sick to death of circ de sole?

      "Also, am I really the only one who’s sick to death of circ de sole?"

      Nope, I am also sick of them.

      "If they’d have invited mainstream media instead, it would have been more effective. Leave the press conference for the gaming press…"

      I can see your point, but I think a combination of both would've have worked much better. Kinect never really struck me as a Hardcore gamer thing, just aimed at the Wii market. So yes, Microsoft does have the potential to do well here, but I think they need to market it more, and market it more efficiently. There's good chance this could turn out to be an EyeToy (in the sense that it'll kind of die down and nobody will care too much for it. Not to do with the fact that it uses the person as a controller. Although it does do that.).

      Anyway, this isn't enticing enough for me to get a 360. And at the way they're aiming it, it never will.

        Haha yeap I agree. I woke up early this morning wandering if MS have something to finally jump up and buy xbox to sit next to my PS3. Alas, 60% of their show was something I was never really into (motion control), and added with the effect that most of these games are geared toward kids, it just made me want to shake my head and question myself repeatedly why did i waste that one hour watching a Wii advertisement.

        MS hasn't found anything that will really truly react to the mainstream audience, unlike Mario which everyone knows. That is why a lot of people still buy Nintendo, and until MS does something they won't jump to MS. In fact, I think most Wii owners might jump to PS3.

        It's the next logical step. Think about it, move controller is very similar to wii. And if people who has wii loves the controller, they can 'feel at home' with Move. Furthermore, PS3 has blu-ray and upgradeable HDD and web browsing, all of which that Xbox360 doesn't have, and all the features that will be a worthy investment for the next few years.

    "a question of epically vacuous proportions"
    hahaha nice.

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