Praise From A Skeptic: Why We LOVE Kinect.

Electronics Family Games GeekMom Household Gadgets Technology Toys

We weren’t supposed to get an XBox Kinect for Christmas. We specifically said we didn’t want one. And yet it turned out to be one of the most popular, most used gifts we’ve received in years.  Go figure.

Photo: XBox

In early November Grammy called and said she’d bought one for our family. She had heard they were going to be a hot item this holiday season and she wanted to make sure we got one.  She had the receipt, in case the kids didn’t want it, but she was running the idea by me while it was still early in the game. We’d seen the commercials and were intrigued, but the general attitude in our house was that it was not really our thing.

We had a long discussion at the dinner table one night, before I officially called Grammy back and said we really weren’t interested.  Our teen boys are more into the war/flying video games and little boy is a Lego Star Wars addict. My young adult daughter rarely plays video games anymore. The commercials at the time mainly showcased the dance games and the males around our table didn’t think they’d ever use a dance game.

Fortunately Grammy ignored our short sighted ignorance. She kept the box in the closet (still keeping the receipt, mind you), just in case we changed our minds.

We were at her house on Christmas Eve, where we exchanged presents with all the aunts, uncles and cousins. Then the house was quiet and it was time to go to bed. Grammy knew that my little one had stopped his Santa beliefs this year, but still wondered if maybe, just maybe, she should put the Kinect under the tree, one last gift from the round, red suited guy.

My thought was, “why not?” Maybe the kids would find other games, beyond the dance party, they could play. The whole idea is that they could play games without a controller, and I couldn’t imagine that there wouldn’t be games that came out in the future that we wouldn’t enjoy.

A very shocked ten year old found his surprise gift under the tree the next morning and couldn’t wait to get back to our house, so he could bust it out. I suspect he had wanted one but didn’t want to look like a baby in front of the older brothers.

Now comes the time where I tell you if we liked it or not. Boy, do we like this thing. No, more accurately, we LOVE this thing. It’s been turned on, practically non-stop, since we got home from Grammy’s house.  Little guy loves every one of the games and had the rest of us sucked in within an hour.

The game called Kinect Sports (an extra Grammy included) could have kept us busy for a week. It has six sports options (boxing, track and field, soccer, table tennis, beach volleyball and bowling). Now lest you think this sounds a bit too much like the Wii, let me tell you why it’s not.

We have the Wii, including the sports games. And they are fun. But the whole concept of having no controller, which sets the Kinect apart, is so much more entertaining than I’d anticipated.  The sensor scans your body and then you show up on the screen. Or more accurately, your avatar shows up (you can pick something crazy, like the sweat suit wearing giant carrot or just be one of the standard people).

But the fun part comes when this person on the screen mimics your every action. When you scratch your nose, it scratches its nose.  When you lift your arms, twirl around, swivel your hips, so does your guy on the screen. It’s so much more interactive than a game with a controller.

Notice the avatar not only matches his arms but she's jutting her hip out, just like he is.

Which means that while you’re standing on the track, waiting to jump the hurdles in the track and field game, you can stretch out, swing your arms around, high five yourself, or just do a little dance jive…and your avatar on screen copies your every move. You truly start to feel like you’re ‘in’ the game.

As Sam puts his arm out, his avatar matches, which makes the runner on his left flinch and say, "Hey! Watch out!"

We went through every sports game on the disc, and had a unique sports experience with each game. My daughter loved spiking the volleyball and I loved the constant volley in the ping pong game. My little guy challenged his dad to the full range of track and field events. The sprints are the most hilarious to watch, as a spectator, since the faster you run in place, the faster your avatar moves, and slow pokes are represented accurately on the screen. I’m not naming names, my sweet husband. Just pointing out that youth has its advantages.

The game included in the box, called Kinect Adventures!, is just as fun as the sports game. One of the five games on that disc puts you on a moving roller coaster platform and makes you jump over and duck under padded bars, allowing you to control your speed just by jumping up and down on the platform. My favorite game puts your avatar in a clear box, deep inside an aquarium. The box begins to leak randomly and it takes quick reflexes to reach out and plug the holes before they fill the box with water.

The whole idea of your body being the controller is fascinating to watch. To pick options on the screen you reach out and ‘touch’ the box, seeing your hand on the screen connect to the desired choice. When you need to pause the game, a simple stance of one arm by your side and one bent tells the machine to stop. The crowd in the stadium, ‘watching’ you play, can be forced to do the wave, just by waving your hand over their different sections. My son’s favorite feature is the voice recognition. He feels like he’s living in a sci-fi movie when all he has to do to start the disc is say, in a firm voice, “X-Box, Play Disc!”  He never tires of the feeling of controlling the machine with just his voice.

The one big surprise that we love more every day, is the Show Off and Share feature.  Remember getting your picture taken at the critical moment on an amusement park ride? This game does the same thing. Through the course of play the sensor takes pictures and video of the real you, doing all the wacky moves you’re doing, and then shows them off at the end of the game. If you want to share them with other Xbox users, you can subscribe to Xbox Live and they’ll be sent to an online site. But they’re also fun just to laugh over as friends and family play.

It's fun to see what you looked like playing the game.

(Warning:  everyone in the sensor’s view will be in the shot. I was in on the couch behind my son, reading the New York Post, through much of his first series of pictures.)

We’ve now bought the Dance Central game and my 18 year old daughter and her friends spent a couple of pretty hilarious hours in my living room yesterday, mastering some new dance moves. Her little brother snatched it from her when they left and danced away a few more hours of the day. If nothing else, this is exactly the kind of video gaming system that will get people off the couch.

As much as the Wii got people of all ages, from toddlers to grandparents, involved in the video game craze, I’m confident the Kinect will keep the momentum rolling. There’s a magical feeling to being literally on the screen – running, dancing, hopping, throwing and generally being in complete control of the video version of yourself.

Take it from a skeptic, who actually requested we NOT get this newest fad, it’s even more fun than what you see on the commercials. I can’t wait to try out the work out game. I have a feeling I’ll be much more motivated to do my daily exercise when I can watch my adorable avatar on the screen mimic my every move.

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23 thoughts on “Praise From A Skeptic: Why We LOVE Kinect.

  1. I was also a little sceptic when I first heard of the Kinect, as I thought the dance games would be the mail sole purpose of a system like this. However as a 22 year old guy I wanted to take a look anyway, so requested it for Christmas. I have to say that I have been addicted ever since, the your shape fitness is absolutely fantastic and it is actually very responsive to your movements (it has to be because you have to keep in time with your personal trainer), Adventures is as entertaining as you say and I even find myself enjoying the Dance Central. I think I will have to go out and purchase the sports game after reading this. It has pleasantly surprised me and I can’t wait to see some of the new games they will be bringing out in 2011 and beyond.

    PS- Just found this blog from GeekDad, and sure it will become daily reading, excellent work guys.

    1. We took ours back after only a couple of days. The things was constantly having problems tracking our movements. Should have read the reviews that talked about all the problems we had and saved ourselves the trouble of buying a Kinect.

      Honestly, even if if the games did work it would have been just as fun to just wave our arms around randomly in front of the TV by itself.

      I have to imagine this the single most returned item these past holidays.

  2. I’ve played with Kinect as set up in large, well lit spaces by big gaming companies, and have seen trouble with it picking up movements – enough so to keep me from being interested in having one. I’ve assumed that it would be disastrous in my tiny NYC apartment. Are you having any issues? Looks like you have a nice, big space, though.

  3. Great post, thanks. My question about the Kinect (which we don’t have) is kind of philosophical: why is it more fun to move your body and have the avatar respond than just to move your body in the real world? It’s the same with Wii Sport (which we do have.) I don’t get why my totally unathletic son would never play tennis in real life but will do so with relish on the Wii. What is it about the electronic interaction that makes movement so irresistible? Truly curious.

  4. Kate, I truly don’t know why it’s so exciting to play sports and games ‘through’ an avatar. I was surprised myself, how much it drew me in. It is very motivating to make you push yourself farther than you might in ‘real’ life.

    For instance, with the boxing game, you get so caught up in the punching (and watching your avatar mimic the moves in your hand/arms/legs) that you dont realize how hard you’re working. Dont be surprised if you’re sore days later.

    We have had no problem with the ‘reading’ issue and we dont have a huge room. We pushed our sofa back but our kids stand less than six feet from the machine.

    I read online that if the reader has trouble reading people (short and tall people can be a problem) the easy answer is to mount the receiver above the TV. Then it ‘sees’ down, and takes in anyone in the room.

    It’s continued to be fun for our kids, and two of my teens just returned from spending the holidays in Brazil and they are being introduced to it as I type this (by their very enthusiastic ‘never usually plays video games’ older sister).

    I’m with Dave and excited about the new games that will come out.

    Judy

  5. We got one too and love it. We bought the Kinectimals game and Dance Central. Those along with the included Adventures game were plenty of fun for all of us this past week. My son and I enjoyed choosing our pet lions and helping them explore their island. My teen aged daughter and I had dance-offs. She always won, but it is a good work-out. My arms hurt after the first day! I’m glad we got it 🙂

  6. Kinect is absolute garbage.

    Honestly Judy, if you are trying to hype something, you would do best not to sound like you are spouting an endless stream of marketing talking points.

    Kinect is the laughing stock of the gaming world. It is being called the worst gaming add-on in the history of the market. It is junk technology that Microsoft bought from a company that Apple, Nintendo and Sony all didn’t want because it was so bad.

    The problems people who have tried this disaster of a device all report the same things:

    * You need a huge amount of completely open space to even get it to work

    * It is a major pain just to get the damn thing calibrated and working

    * There are lighting, clothing, and all sorts of environmental problems that plague the device

    * It can only handle two people at once

    * There are major tracking problems where games lose sync right in the middle of playing forcing you to start over

    * The games for it laughably bad compared to the treasure trove of Nintendo Wii games that suffer non of the massive number of problems Kinect suffers from

    Microsoft throwing around 500 million dollars in advertising, PR, and getting ‘geek moms’ to hype this turd of a device isn’t going to make Kinect into a Wii type success.

    1. Post-hijacking is absolute garbage.

      Honestly Karen, if you are trying to disagree with someone’s personal opinion, you would do best not to sound like you are spouting an endless stream of spewage.

      Yeah, sort of sucks when that same language is directed at you, huh? You don’t have to agree with everything she says and you are well within your right to hate the stinkin thing, but to insult another human’s intelligence, sense of entertainment, and credibility as a writer on this site, really makes you sound small and petty. I’m sure you are a nice person who feels very strongly about the economic prospects of the Kinectic but please refrain from feeling that your disregard for it means that no one else on the planet is allowed to enjoy it.

    2. Karen, under what circumstances did you try Kinect? Could that have something to do with how different your experience was from Judy’s? I’m assuming you have used it, based on the vehemence of your opinions.

    3. People like Karen are dishonest liars who live in some weird alternate universe where millions of people who purchased a Kinect aren’t having fun and are only saying they are for some “conspiracy” involving Microsoft. Either that or she’s yet another hateful troll that has crawled out from under some other website (n4g) to spew hate.

      I have posted videos on my site and youtube of myself and my son playing Kinect in a dark room, and I‘m African-American. I’ve never had any of the tracking issues with clothing, lighting or “huge” amounts of space impeding the fun we have.

      It isn’t 1:1 tracking, that’s true. However, for the games that are out now it isn’t needed and it’s something that they can make faster by software updates (this has already happened) for more core titles like the upcoming Steel Battalion.

      I’d bet you bottom dollar that most of these haters haven’t even played a Kinect before. They are simply spewing the same nonsense that they read somewhere else on the internet because that’s what trolls do. My suggestion to anyone reading this is to try it for yourself. Don’t listen to anyone like myself who says it’s fantastic fun and that it works. Don’t listen to those liars who who’d have you believe some mass hypnosis has us all fooled. Find out for yourself. If you don’t like it, take it back but it’s been my experience that Kinect is an amazing product that has haters of the 360 and MS shaking in their boots.

      Gaming is about having fun and Kinect does that in spades

      1. When “Karen” mentioned the marketing blitz, “she” gave “herself” away as a delusional Sony fan”girl”. I’ve seen that comment way too many times by Sony fanatics.

    4. Karen is a liar, a fanboy from another site spewing hate

      * You need a huge amount of completely open space to even get it to work-No you don’t. My game room is not huge and open and it works fine.

      * It is a major pain just to get the damn thing calibrated and working-another lie. The only thing that can give you troube at first is the facial recognition, that’s it.

      * There are lighting, clothing, and all sorts of environmental problems that plague the device-Flat out lie. People walk in and out and all around and the Kinect adjusts and tracks with no problems

      * It can only handle two people at once-this is the biggest lie. Kinect Sports is 4 player co-op, online and off. Not only that, but games coming out in the future also support more players. Unlike Wii and Move where you have to purchase seperate kits for you friends to play with you.

      * There are major tracking problems where games lose sync right in the middle of playing forcing you to start over-another lie. I’ve had Kinect since launch and have never had this problem.

      * The games for it laughably bad compared to the treasure trove of Nintendo Wii games that suffer non of the massive number of problems Kinect suffers from-that’s your opinion. This is how I know your a troll from some other site. You haven’t played it and it shows. Dance Central and Kinect Sports are laugably bad? How so? If Kinect Sports is better than Wii sports, how is it laughably bad? Dance Central scored very high. Not only that, the system has only been out a few months. The Wii didn’t have anything but Wii sports for a long time and that was fine and the PS Move doesn’t have anything but tacked on support for older games. Troll harder next time.

      Microsoft throwing around 500 million dollars in advertising, PR, and getting ‘geek moms’ to hype this turd of a device isn’t going to make Kinect into a Wii type success.-Another indicater that your some angry child from a hateful site. What woman named Karen would come on someones blog and make that comment? The answer is none. It’s an angry child, nothing more nothing less. Not only that but what a stupid statement. Of course they are going to spend the money to advertise their product. It’s a big part of Microsoft going forward in gaming. Grow up. By that logic, anytime Sony or Nintendo or anyone for that matter advertises their product, they must be passing out money hats :/

      Great HONEST reveiw Judy, keep up the good work and ignore the angry trolls from around the web. It isn’t “cool” or “hardcore” to like Kinect on these backwater no name so-called gameing sites these trolls come from.

    5. We’ve had Kinect for over 2 months now and LOVE it. We were Sony/PS3 people before, mainly because of the Blu-Ray capability and the original promise of Final Fantasy exclusivity, but now we have the XBOX and the Kinect and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had with a gaming system. I haven’t had any of the problems Karen mentioned. It took maybe 15 minutes to get it out of the box and set up. We don’t have a huge living room and it works just fine.

      We had a great time playing Sports and Adventures with the extended family at thanksgiving, and my sister and I played Dance Central for hours every night while she was in town visiting.

  7. I have only one woman’s opinion but if all of Karen’s comments were true I would not have had a very enjoyable six hours last night, playing game after game with my four kids (three of them ‘regular’ video gaming teens). I dont think we’ve had such a fun time as a family in weeks.
    The game has worked perfectly. The only time it has had ‘tracking’ problems was when the dog walked through the screen, and even then it immediately re-tracked and had no effect on the game.
    We dont have a huge living room. In fact, if the players get more than five feet from the tracker, it tells them to move closer.
    All of my kids have said they wanted to have a game night where they invite their individual friends over to play.
    It’s a HUGE hit at our house. No problems, only hours of fun and lots of laughing. I had no compensation from the company and we bought ours full price.
    I hope my review will encourage other families to try it out. We have most of the gaming systems and this one is, by far, the most versatile for different ages, and the most ‘all over’ fun.

    Judy

  8. @Guerilla,

    Can you at least try and have some respect for women (let alone people in general) and their opinons? It’s attitudes like yours that help promote the image of pimply faced “macho men” that run gaming with harsh language and a lack of respect.

    On behalf of all men Judy, I’m sorry you had to endure such garbage. It’s sad that an internet connection and anonymity are shields for sad excuses like that guy. Ignore him, your blog is your opinion and it’s spot on.

  9. Great article. I enjoyed reading a ladies perspective on kinect. My families been enjoying it since launch. You’re article hit the nail on the head as there isn’t anything on the market that is as engrossing that makes one feel like they’re actually playing it. My family loved Wii sports but kinect sports is heads & shoulders better. My family tried another product (I think it was called move?) for about a week & returned it as it’s the same as the Wii but with worse programs. Anyways nice article.

  10. Well, I’ve gotta say I’ve been converted to. Using it with my family was awesome! Especially with Kinect sports: this has worked much better than I expected!

    To get a good idea of what Kinect games are worth my trouble, I usually go to a website that has a ton of info on Kinect and its games: http://123kinect.com/

  11. Alright, I just discovered this particular report concerning Gears of War: Exile. Any thoughts peeps precisely what it truly is? Many reckon it is going to end up being a Kinect title. The tech may be there, however aren’t there a few logistical problems? I don’t think I am alone by playing in the evening in a dimly lit room. I additionally sit back in addition to I also play gears on a thursday evening for 3 to 4 hours. I can’t see it being the same experience if I must stand up in a well lit room with my shoulder blades cramping up. If you can sit down, that changes things slightly. On the other hand I’m still to see a kinect video game that doesn’t need you to stand up. I am aware they altered the tracking node to the head and so the theory is there. Even so, nothing has been launched as of yet.

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