PAX East 2011: A Love Letter to Kinect

Alright, I know I’m pretty late to the bandwagon since Kinect was released during the holidays, but I genuinely haven’t gotten to spend any time with the device. Until now.

One of the amazing things about Penny Arcade Expo is the expansive freeplay section available to attendees, and Kinect was available in full force. I stepped in front of a television armed with an Xbox 360, a Kinect, Kinectimals, and Dance Central, and I unwillingly and surprisingly fell in love.

Believe you me, I was just as skeptical about this device as I’m sure you all were, or maybe still are. And since Penny Arcade is pretty much my go-to for my videogame advice, and they aren’t the biggest fans of Kinect, I was expecting to be underwhelmed. Oh how wrong I was. Two seconds of tossing a ball around to a baby tiger and I was sold.

It was incredibly freeing to not hold a controller. It was awesome how easily the Kinect registered my movements and noticed my hand motions. And MAN was that tiger cute. Before I knew it, I had spent fourty minutes tossing beach balls, Frisbees, and tennis balls to an imaginary tiger on-screen, and I was talking to it like it was my own dog.

Maybe, I thought, it’s just this cute tiger selling me on this technology, and not the device itself. So I stepped over to Dance Central to put my theory to the test. Again, I was wrong. In seconds the Kinect had registered I was there. Once I got used to the controls for Dance Central, which are kind of weird considering you swipe your hand to the left to select things, I was movin’ and groovin’ to “Down” by Jay Sean, one of my favorite songs to dance to.

The game was critical of my moves, instead of just giving me points for moving a controller the right way, it registered things like me stepping with the correct foot yet not waving the correct arm. It forced me to engage more with the device. It wasn’t a workout, but it wasn’t the mind-numbing experience I was used to from other consoles.

I agree that this device isn’t for everyone. But after playing the Wii and using Playstation Move, the idea that I can step in front of a television, have it recognize me in seconds, and be playing almost immediately with nothing in my hands is pretty amazing to me.

I think PAX East has taught me that the future of gaming won’t be sold on us consumers through E3 press conferences or video tech demos. We really need to take the time and try these things ourselves.

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