Console gaming has changed. In fact, one could make an easy case for flat out evolution. With gaming, gamers have evolved as well. Where once the stereotypical gamer was a fat pimple-faced kid in his mom’s basement, hands covered in Cheetos dust and a two-liter of Mountain Dew with a straw nearby, the gamer is now de-evolving as gaming is evolving.
Gamers didn’t always have a stereotype. They were normal kids, skinny kids, fat kids – whatever – just normal. There wasn’t a stigma, there wasn’t a stereotype. Then the really hardcore ones fell into a stereotype that they created. They became unhealthy and pale, shunning physical activity for sitting around gaming. I’m not making any judgments on that fact; I’m a gamer, but always had a healthy balance of gaming and physical activity. Even now, in my 30s, I game regularly – after I spend time at the gym.
So when I say de-evolution, I mean that the idea of gamers and their physical stereotypes are reverting to their earlier stage. Gaming has evolved, and through that evolution physical activity has re-entered the sphere of gamers and that will change everything.
So what exactly has changed in the past couple years to get gamers off the couch? (And for the purpose of this article, when I say gamers I’m referring to console gamers, as PC gamers are a whole different bunch and the tech I’m talking about doesn’t apply to them at all at this point.) Well, the instruments of play have changed. With the innovative direction taken by the major console systems, gamers are getting active, and getting their families involved as well.
Which brings us to the current debate, as suggested by fellow GeekDad James Floyd Kelly, who is looking to purchase a new active system for his family. Which is it, he asked, which one is best? The Xbox with Kinect? The Wii or the Playstation Move? Actually, he didn’t ask about the Playstation Move, but it should be included in the overall conversation. So we’ll take a look at a couple of the major decision factors in the three systems and leave the decision up to you, the people. Though I’ll try to influence it as I don’t have to be un-biased. I’m an Xbox gamer, and I have a Kinect. I also have a Wii. But I’m partial to the Kinect.
For the Kids
The conversation and how this debate started was with wondering what was a good system to get for the kids, so why not start there?
For the sake of argument, the Wii and the Move are conceptually the same thing. I mean, once the Wii released the Motion Plus controls, the Move was just expanding on that technology. With its Z-axis tracking and hyper-accurate sensors, the Move has a little more to offer in the way of controls and accuracy, but you are still holding a controller in your hand. The Kinect is a completely different animal.
The Kinect has trouble with children, especially small children. They don’t see it as much because when playing a game such as say, Wipeout, they are just jumping around like mad anyway. For the Kinect, you’ve got to have basically a clear 36 square foot (6″x6″) area to play in. No toys on the ground, no furniture and so on. This is kind of hard when you have kids in the house. Not impossible, just hard. You know, cleaning.
Next up for the Kinect is its trouble recognizing intuitive slight motions. Motions that both the Wii Motion Plus and Move pick up so well. The Kinect requires a lot of exaggeration, something that kids have a hard time getting when they have been used to precision in gaming and you’ve been telling them for years to “stop spazzing out.” Kinect also has no force feedback, such as vibration (because you aren’t holding a controller) but that’s not a deal breaker.
While a lot of parents seem concerned about the Wii remote getting flung into the television screen, I would implore those parents to just tighten the strap. Same deal for the Move. Plus, you can teach your kids that all it takes is a flick of the wrist for most movements in the games, not a complete body attack. Mixing movement with buttons helps to improve hand-eye coordination and is a great transition into the future of gaming, which will probably be all movement. I’d say that the Wii Motion Plus or the Move would be a better choice for younger kids at this point. Wii +1, Move +1
For the Adults
One of the concepts with the Kinect that I found hard explaining to the children (and having them follow the concept) is they don’t have to keep jumping and creeping towards the television set. You think worrying about a child flinging Wii remote at the television is bad? How about watching them slowly kick and punch their way towards your LCD HD TV. This is a concept that, thankfully, most adults understand.
The range of the Kinect, if the sensor is placed correctly, is perfect for most adults and most motions within the scope of the games are picked up. You still have to have a clear room, and the game goes bonkers whenever your kids walk in front of you (which, if you have any, is often.) The Kinect offers the best movement for adults looking to get fit. While the Wii and the Move have fitness offerings, you are still holding a controller in your hand and the impulse to be lazy with it is hard to avoid.
The real kicker here is going to be if and how the Kinect does first person shooters. Both the Wii and the Move have guns. With those guns, you can shoot things on screen. Recently at PAX Prime I played the demo for GoldenEye: Reloaded. Using the controller snapped into the rifle attachment, it took some getting used to, but it was pretty freaking awesome. That is a huge selling point for adult gamers. I’m thinking the Kinect is going to have to do something similar, as shooting with a pretend gun isn’t as fun as say, playing air guitar.
Because of the first person shooter aspect (I don’t even want to think about how any of the systems are going to handle an RPG such as Skyrim with motion controls) I have to give this category to the Wii and the Move. Mostly the Move because the games are better on the Playstation vs. the Wii as far as shooters, and the HD output helps that case as well. I’m sure the next iteration of the Wii will have HD, but right now it doesn’t. Move +1
For the Games
The game selection is one of the most important factors when purchasing a new system. Where the Move and the Kinect have specific games that use those tools, every single game for the Wii uses motion controls. Of course, some of them use them better than others. The motion controls when applied to games such as Zelda: Skyward Sword are clunky and confusing. The game is much better served with a classic controller. Of course, it’s not a great game to begin with, so there is that.
Of course, there is Mario. Mario Kart, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and New Super Mario Bros are all outstanding and fun titles for adults and children alike. They make perfect use of the motion controls and have the longstanding nostalgic value to go with them. Still, though, the best game I’ve ever played on the Wii is golf, and I hate golf in real life, so that’s saying something.
The Move has a pretty moderate selection of games, including shooters and games for the whole family. The selection is limited, and while there are more games on the horizon, many of the games out now are similar to each other. Games such as Killzone 3 and Heavy Fire: Afghanistan have adapted the Move Sharpshooter into the gameplay with relative ease.
Meanwhile the Kinect at the moment is plagued with cartoonish games focused on either dancing, fitness or some sort of adventurous activity. While they are all done well, they just don’t stand up over time to getting your first person shooter on. When I get home after a long day, I don’t want to Zumba or Just Dance; I want to shoot some fools in their A.I. heads. Move +1
For the Health
The Move and the Wii have their share of fitness games, and really these are the same games (if not exactly the same, then in concept) available on the Kinect as well. From the aforementioned Zumba to UFC Personal Trainer there is no shortage of fitness games. And with America getting fatter and fatter, the time for fitness is now.
So while the games are the same, the range of motion and control is not the same. Sure, you can move the same with all three systems, but only the Kinect requires more than just your arms to move. The Wii could instruct you to kick and jump all day long, but the reality is that all you have to do is flick your wrist and it tracks that as the required movement. The Kinect, your whole body is the controller (that sounded like a tagline, incidental I assure you) and that’s the behavior that is encouraged.
Inevitably, there are going to be injuries when playing fitness games on the Kinect with more than one person in the room. But if you’ve ever attended a full group fitness class, that’s going to happen sometimes. The point is, the fitness games are more like instructional DVDs for getting fit, with the enhancement of scoring, which we’re all suckers for. We all want a gold star on our forehead. Kinect +1
For the Future
Regardless of their current iterations, these systems will advance and new versions of all three of them are on the near horizon. The future is going to be very interesting for the progression of gaming, and I’m glad that we’re all still young enough to see what happens.
The Kinect has the most hope for the future and the most potential. While they may have to resort to some sort of handheld device for interaction with FPS games, you still won’t be using a traditional controller. The Wii and the Move are currently locked into their current model of holding a controller, and as the Kinect sensor technology advances, so will its ability to completely capture your movements with high accuracy.
Soon, we might be playing games in a virtual room similar to the situation in the movie Gamer or we’ll be playing games via chips embedded in our heads (which will also be used for banking and other activities.) For now though, we’ll simply scoot the coffee table out of the way and dance across the living room, increasing blood flow to the legs and gaming our little hearts out. Kinect +1
In the present, it appears as if the Playstation Move wins this debate. I’m sure plenty of you disagree and of course I’d love to read your reasons why I’m completely out of my head and totally mistaken in the comments. Or, if you for once support my conclusion in a Great Geek Debate, I’d love to hear your support as to why I’m actually right for once. I’m still smarting from the iPhone vs. Blackberry debate.
[This article, by Curtis Silver, was originally published on Tuesday. Please leave any comments you may have on the original.]