Falling Out Of Love With The Xbox 360 Kinect

"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 arse 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 $US150 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 apologise 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 rumour with his big, burly, rumour-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 recognise 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.


Comments

    Awesome article Lisa!
    I had a similar experience at a shopping mall upon it's release. I had to check it out right? And now I'm probably on YouTube with lightsaber noises and everything!

    See this was the exact reason why I never recommended Kinect to my friends or relatives. I may not have an Xbox 360 or Kinect but I've seen enough videos of it in action to know that this will NEVER be a good experience for a core gamer while it stays like this. The lag alone would be enough to drive a core gamer nuts. If you want to excel at any kinect game, become a jedi and know what happens before you see it on the screen. Because you need to make moves almost half a second before it happens on screen in order for it to actually be enjoyable. Without it, if you're taken by surprise and try to make a redeeming quick move, you're trying to catch something/hit something/whatever and it's already past and gone before your avatar even reacts in time.

    I had an eyetoy for my PS2 way back when, it sucked in accuracy in terms of what you were actually trying to do (Strumming an air guitar for example on screen), but at least it had a much faster response time. Seems to me that something very important was ripped out just for something else that was needed. It may be good enough for casual gamers to just shrug off cuz they don't care about being great at a game, that they just want to have fun, but that's as far as Kinect can go until improved.

      Yeah, this lag was probably my biggest fear with the system. It comes down to a lack of precision, even if it knows exactly where my hand is, if it only knows it a second after it was there that isn't very precise.

      I know it goes against the concept of the thing, to be simple and 'controllerless' but I would have preferred if they shipped it with gloves, or something you wear on your hands that made precise and exact measurements. Of course this would ruin the gimmick of the device and you would probably lose a lot of casual gamer sales, but core gamers and techno-geeks could really get a lot of fun and use out of it. Think of the hacks people are making now, imagine how much better it would be if you could track exact finger position and distances.

        I would've gone with gloves hell yeah. The main thing is that lag means there's too much calculating and processing going on for the device to handle adequately, since I'm sure you notice that this happens on EVERYTHING kinect related, even on videos about kinect hacks, there's lag on those ones too.

        On something like this I would've waited until the hardware could be fast enough to handle that much data much faster, since that data that kinect uses, it'll never evolve and increase (Unless you humans grow a third arm or tentacles), so all it would take is time to get powerful hardware and at a cheap price to do all it needs to do, then no lag. But yeah, MS had too much pressure to wait I think, with PS Move and the Wii competition

          Didn't the original design actually have some on-board processing power? In the end they took out the processor and shifted the load to the console in order to cut down costs. It'd be interesting to see what difference (if any) it would have made to the lag if they'd kept that dedicated processor.

    *Applause*

    Well said. Kinect is amazing tech, as the numerous hacks have proved. But it's just not tech that's suited to gaming - certainly not beyond the party, sports and kids games that have infested the Wii's library.

    Even more concerning than the standard of current games is the lack of games on the horizon. Child of Eden is coming out on PS3, which suggests that Kinect isn't exactly integral to that game. In fact I suspect even Kinect owners will go back to the standard controller after a few tries with Kinect just because holding your arms out and/or waving them about is just too tiring to do for any significant length of time. Forza doesn't seem to be doing anything new, either - GT5 did head tracking with the PSEye camera, and Joyride did the steer-with-your-hands thing which was pretty ordinary.

    That lack of games is the thing I find most mystifying - I can almost understand them neglecting the core gamer market if they've decided to chase after the casual market with it instead. But there aren't even any of THOSE games being shown off. It makes you wonder if they've decided they're just going to target the casual market with a once-a-year flurry of casual games around christmas and let it just sit there the other 9 months of the year.

    For the core gamers (which I guess is pretty much anybody reading this site) I suspect Kinect and Move are going to end up in the same place - an optional add-on for some games rather than something to build a game around. Simply because games built around it aren't much good.

    E3 this year is make-or-break for Kinect with "traditional" gamers, I reckon. If they don't show off some seriously good games for it, it's in real trouble.

    Agreed with the lack of releases. Right now the Kinect is just 'the device that comes with Dance Central'. DC2 can't come soon enough as soon as I'm concerned. It's really bizarre and MS screwed up the release schedule with such an interesting device, it has completely lost all momentum, there are NO exciting releases on the horizon.

    That said, I love DC and think, as a peripheral for that game, it's well worth the money.

    "if I have to play Kinect games, is it too much to ask to not want to feel stupid?"

    Is it your fault I feel more stupid after reading this article?

    I agree up to a certain point. I bought one not long after it came out. And although the dancing and workout games were cool when friend were over for awhile. Wheres the good shit at now? And to make matters worse I haven't even heard of any good games in the works. Except the one 3rd person skeleton shooter. Anyways a little over the top. Sound like a fanboy of ps3, but amusing article all in all.

    Same issues with Move... I bought one, still havent seen any games come out for it :( I dont think its even charged now. And they need to make the playstation eye camera wireless, not enough usb points to even have it plugged in most of the time.

      Move has had regular PSN titles coming out. A few big name games have included Move stuff, or been patched. But yeah - it isn't a flood of stuff.

      I ended up getting Dead Space Extraction (move lightgun style shooter) on the disk with Dead Space 2. Have also racked up about 40 hours of Killzone 3 playing with the move controls - which are excellent.

        How does the Move work with Killzone 3? And how well is it done? Can you do everything you could otherwise do with the controller?

        I was pretty unimpressed with the Move, to me it seemed like just a Wii knockoff. I thought Microsoft were trying something new with the Kinect, but then when we started to see tech demos and games everything microsoft was doing was unimpressive.

        Move actually looks like the only one to have real games making use of it, even if it isn't much.

          Yeah - you can do everything. I am not great at FPS games, but am definitely better at aiming using move controls. Melee is probably the only thing that is weaker than using DS3, gun controls are all fine.

          I suggest tweaking the deadzone settings to help with camera movement. iWaggle has lots of walkthrough videos of the move controller settings for KZ3.

      It's the same issue every late addition add-on accessory has. I was saying it long before the Move/Kinect even had names. Both Microsoft and Sony completely ignored the fact nobody is going to make a serious game that can only be sold to a small fraction of people who own their consoles.

      People joke about the idea of the Wii being a slight GameCube upgrade, but Nintendo were smart enough to realise as an accessory the Wiimote would have crashed and burned. As it's own console however it was so successful that it actually sank itself.

      Think of it this way. You can make Dragon Age with standard controls or you can invest even more money in making a brilliant RPG with Kinect controls. The end result could be better with Kinect but you're going to have to sell it to every person who brought a Kinect just to break even. You'd also have to anticipate the Kinect's success and start work on it way before release (hell, before you even had access to the hardware). That's a huge gamble. It probably would have paid off in this case but it could have went either way.

      I think next generation we'll see Kinect really take off. Hopefully by then they'll have the hardware sorted, the price down and the good sense to package it in with every unit sold even if it means a bigger loss. People will complain they don't want it but once developers can just assume access to it I think we'll see some great things (particularly from XBLA and hybrid control systems).

    I've had a Wii since 2007 and I'm STILL looking for a game I want to spend more than 6 hours playing TOTAL. I imagine Kinect would be even worse.

    The hacks are the only thing that even make me slightly interested in Kinect.

      I agree with you on this. After buying a Wii on release date and then playing it for about 2-3 months, once you get over the "wow it knows i bowling" or "wow it knows im swinging my gold club" all games are the same, and dont appeal to me.

      Why was the Wii so successful?? It appealed to the casual market or should i say, REINVENTED the casual market by giving parents the ability to get around play the same game as their kids and make a party out it.

      But i agree, the hacks look really awesome, but after actually playing the kinect i was like "Wheres that controller"....AGAIN.

    The point about the games is right on. Where is the game I would play no matter the technology. I like RPGs/adventure games the was a small attempt with the Harry Potter game but it was a added on mini game that was too repetitive. I'm hope the star wars game that was slated to come out this year will redeem my expectations but until then my butt is sitting down. Most new hardware has been like this for me.

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