Kinect: Artificial Success

The other day I was browsing through some of the comments on a game review when I found a quote that truly resonated with me:

“What people really hate about the Kinect is that it’s success is artificial.”

Good lord, that was the word I was looking for: Artificial.

It’s true, the Kinect’s success really could best be described as artificial. A manufactured victory in the so-called Motion Control Wars that people officially stopped caring about 5 months ago.

The Kinect rolled out with a $500 million ad campaign designed to get the product in people’s faces. They had to make it known to the public and they did. It was on every TV station, website, and newspaper across the country! It was touted as the “Next Big Thing”, carted out onto morning shows, and in some cases it was even given away! It even made the Guinness Book of World Records as “the best selling peripheral of all time”! Soon we would see reports of how the Kinect can be used to treat medical patients, control robots, and help people with disabilities. One website even said “Is there anything the Kinect can’t do?”

Yeah, play games.

Much like the Wii, many of the Kinect’s early supporters had spent little to no time with the unit. Even if they did give it a serious look, they’d often come to the conclusion that “It just needs more time”. But now that it has gotten more time, now that game after game has failed to work, people’s interest in the unit is waning.

Does calling the Kinect’s success artificial mean it has no good games? No, it doesn’t. The Kinect does have a few good games. They’re almost all dancing games with the excaption of Rise of Nightmares, but it has some good stuff here and there. The artificiality comes from it being touted as the new way to control all games, as the way of the future, as something more than it actually is. It’s just a peripheral with limited functionality, like a Dance Pad or Guitar Controller. It is not the wave of the future.

It’s at this point that someone brings up an important point: “Is it fun?”. Yes, frequently the argument will come to the question of the nebulous fun factor. Indeed, games are all about having fun and that’s what really matters at the end of the day! Not which controller is more accurate or how deep a game is, but how much fun it was to play!

The problem is that these “fun” arguments are usually then followed by either the statement “My 5-year old son…” or “Me and my friends got drunk and…”.

The issue with the 5-year old son argument is that he doesn’t really have any refined taste in gaming yet. As such, nearly anything would probably amuse him. Much of this comes from one fact: he doesn’t buy anything. Kids are still developing a sense of the value of money. The more things you have to spend your own money on, the more critical you get of things. When someone just gives you a Kinect, it’s the most magical thing in the world! I mean it does stuff no other peripheral can! It really is just like magic how you can control a game without any controller! This is why early reports on the Kinect, and the Wii back when it came out, were so positive. You’ve got your pack-in game, it does some neat tricks, and you think “This is only the beginning”. Then you spend $50 on a new game and watch as the ill concieved control scheme renders the game unplayable. Then you buy another, and another, and another. After about five different games cost you $50 and just plain don’t work for the exact same reasons, you start to realize that maybe this whole Kinect thing wasn’t such a good idea.

As for the “Me and my friends got drunk and…” argument? Well, getting drunk and making an ass of yourself is fun whether it involves a game or not! The Just Dance series bases it’s equally artificial success off of this game exact concept.

Let me just make one thing perfectly clear: controls that don’t work are not fun (not to the actual person playing anyway).

But perhaps the saddest thing about the current motion control argument is that many people come to the conclusion that current technology isn’t good enough but it will one day get there. People will argue if we really need to use motion control to play FPS games and that the technology shouldn’t be judged on that. But, if we support the Kinect, in the future the technology can become more accurate and then we can play FPS games with it!

…except that there’s already a current motion control technology that is more accurate and does play FPS games: the Playstation Move. It’s almost bizzare listening to people describe the Move in accurate detail and then insist that such a thing does not exist yet and may not even be possible. It’s like the Move has become the motion control equivalent of Ron Paul*! That, my friends, is just weird.

*like him or not, I watched a news program make a big deal about how Rick Santorum was in second place in the latest polls while showing a chart that had him in 3rd place and Ron Paul in second.

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