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Motion Gaming Makes Me Feel Like a Nerd

As you’ve no doubt already read, the Kinect just didn’t work out for me. Not only did I manage to look foolish doing it, but I injured myself in the process. It made me feel lame for not being able to keep up physically, and made me feel like a nerd for not being able to dance. In other words – playing Kinect is like being in high school again.

I wasn’t a cool kid in school, at least in the traditional sense. I’d like to think that anyone who spends his free time reading ‘Ender’s Game’ and playing ‘Daggerfall’ is pretty damn cool, but plenty of others are inclined to disagree. Specifically, the ones wearing varsity jackets and dishing out punishment for being too smart.

I’m not going to start whining about a bad high school experience. I had a great group of friends that I shared interests with, a decent job that let me cause plenty of trouble, and I was able to get out of aggressive encounters by being friendly and funny and non-threatening.

My friends and I didn’t play sports in high school. We didn’t drink or smoke weed, and we didn’t go to any wild parties – though that may simply be a side effect of not being invited to any.

Our hobbies were based in the mental realm instead of the physical. We played ‘D&D’, read books, and stayed up until 4 AM with ‘Goldeneye’ and the still unrivaled ‘Bushido Blade‘. I put this all in past tense as if it’s something we no longer do, but we still get together for ‘D&D’ even if we have moved on from the N64 and PlayStation.

We were (we are) geeks. There’s no question about it. As geeks, we’re a part of the group that got gaming to where it is today. And when I say geeks, I don’t mean the people who pick up ‘Halo’ and ‘Madden’ every year. They’re the videogame equivalent of Chreasters. I mean the people who bought or rented every game they could get their hands on.

We’re the early adopters who pick up a launch system, and we’re the folks who buy strange niche titles, import Japanese games, and listen to the soundtracks we got with our collector’s editions. Not to sound too clichéd here, but we loved comics, videogames, bad movies and science fiction in a time where it was incredibly uncool to do so.

Part of the reason we loved the things we did is because we were good at them. We were never going to get on the football field. We weren’t about to try out for the basketball team or even impress anyone with our dance moves. If we tried (I was on the football team for a few weeks in seventh grade), it went very badly.

We were always proud to be geeks, nerds, or whatever folks called us. The words took on a negative connotation during gym class, when we were forced to participate in team sports, solo exercises and the dreaded mile run. If you weren’t a peak athlete in school, you know the feeling just as well as we did.

That’s where my problem with the Kinect comes in, as it does for all motion gaming peripherals.

The Kinect puts a very hard limit on how much I can improve. All the Kinect games on the market require a great amount of movement. Some games ask you to jump, others ask you to dance, and they all require you to be active. This may seem like a “No duh” sort of statement, but it means that your physical condition will limit your advancement in the game – something that can’t be said of traditional videogames.

Sure, my finger speed could potentially limit my ‘StarCraft II’ advancement, and my thumb dexterity and accuracy could slow me down in ‘Modern Warfare’, but that’s the sort of thing that only affects the very high level players.

Videogaming is part physical, sure. But the majority of gaming ability comes down to intuition, knowledge and reaction. Even at the most competitive levels, gaming is an intellectual battlefield that rewards those who can think of the best strategies, analyze behaviors, and adapt to the style of the opponent.

When it comes to games like ‘Dance Central’, I feel like I’m in gym class again, trying to figure out how to throw a football properly. I’m limited by my physical ability. There’s no decision making, no use of intelligence, just pure physicality.

It makes me feel like I’m in the realm of the cool kids, the realm of the jock – a realm in which geeks were never meant to tread.

9 comments

  1. AlexWS

    Good read.

    Personally I can’t wait to try Kinect. I think it looks really cool. For me it will be a fun and physical alternative to the traditional gaming I already have and love. I am not too much of a physical person myself, so I assume I will never be on top of leaderboards in games that get very physical. But that all depends on the games. Games that require you to run on the spot (like in Kinect Sports) will definitely favor people with great fitness. But many Kinect games will still be “games”, only with a physical interface. By that I mean that they will be games with game logics, and game requirements. Where the ability to understand and adapt to the situations presented to you will be more important then how fast you can run, or how high you can jump. I imagine upcoming games like Steel Battalion and Project D will both fall in this category.

    And I will still probably have tons of fun playing Kinect Sports and Dance Central, I will just have to focus less on the mastering aspect of gaming, and just have a casual fun time while being active.

  2. We were obviously different types of geeks in high school, but that may be do to the fact that we are seperated by a few years – your Goldeneye comment pretty much dated you. Now to date myself – during my freshmen year, we went down to the Radio Shack during lunch to play The 7th Guest. The sales employees were cool with this, as anyone else walking in saw us playing and were immediately in awe of their computers.

    They stopped off-campus lunches after my freshmen year, so we hung out in the computer labs. We were not allowed to install stuff on the computers, so we made Dos boot discs, and played The Humans, Lemmings, Duke Nukem (NOT 3d), and Commander Keen. After school, we went over to my friend Laura’s house. Her dad had a home network, and we would play Doom, and later, Quake. Also some Warcraft (1 and 2).

    We eventually started our own BBS. Laura provided the equipment and the phone line, my friend Clay was in charge of ANSI graphics and the files section, and I was in charge of Door Games (Legend of the Red Dragon and Usurper were our big ones) and RIP Graphics. Her father originally set us up with TAG, but we converted to Wildcat because it was so much easier to use.

    A couple of times a year, we would go down to the First Saturday computer sale. My meager job barely allowed me to upgrade my modem (14,400bps? That was FAST compared to 2,400. 28,800 had JUST come out, and were a couple of hundred, and no one supported them. 33.6 and 56k did not come out until later).

    We were the geeks who not only went and saw Star Wars at the theater, but bought the letterboxed VHS tapes when they came out so we could see the entire screen (we were not geeky enough to know about television resolutions and that laserdisc was better).

    Worst, though, is that I made an F in 6th Grade Gym class because I was incapable of running the mile in under 15 minutes or do 60 situps in two minutes.

    I did enjoy tennis briefly in college and tossing the frisbee around after that, but, yeah, motion gaming – not my fortee!

    • Sounds like the same kind of geek to me!

      I didn’t play Duke or Commander Keen in high-school, but I sure did play ‘em in 5th grade. I think that’s part of the reason I never dug the Duke Nukem 3D games, honestly. The 2D ones were so much better.

      I didn’t go to Radio Shack to jump on their computers, but I sure did spend a lot of time at Babbages and the beloved Egghead Software before that. :)

  3. Tim

    Great post! I’m pretty much the same nerd, but I never did have the N64. I played Goldeneye at a friend’s. I had the PSX so I was rocking out pretty much an JRPG I could get my hands on and have been gaming ever since.

    I’m married, have two daughters with a third on the way, but still game anywhere between 15-30 hrs a week. I’m also in a D&D campaign, but it’s really sporadic when we’re able to meet.

    I’m necessarily an active individual, but I do go the gym 4 mornings during the week to lift weights and I briefly wrestled in high school. I probably don’t look it, but I’m a super nerd and proud of it. However, I just can’t convince myself to buy a Kinect (or any motion-based system/peripheral). My wife is interested in it and I think it would be cool for the kids, but as of right now our living room setup is not ideal (don’t have 8 feet of extra space between couch and TV) and setting it up in the future media room downstairs isn’t feasible (if I put all consoles in a media closet, which is optimal, I’d have to have at least 30 ft of extension cord and the 10ft Kinect extension cord is $50!).

  4. Jane Morgan

    N64 came out during my first summer at university. In high school, we had SNES and we had never even heard of the internet. I did tennis, volleyball, cheerleading for hockey, and track. To me, the idea of motion gaming is the dumbest concept. If Kinect 2 comes in the box with the xbox 720 I’ll hook it up, but I doubt I’ll ever buy any casual games. The kids can play outside while I play Elder Scrolls V.

    • Tim

      Mmm…Elder Scrolls…I remember booting up Arena from a DOS prompt…it was so revolutionary. Of course, I would take forever getting out of the first dungeon bc I would save before opening any chest and then just reload if I didn’t get decent loot. I had to leave the first dungeon with mostly magical equipment or none at all.

      Bethesda needs to get on the ball with Elder Scrolls V. I exhausted the CE of Oblivion on the 360, including all DLC. Now that I have a laptop that can actually run games well, I’m thinking of going back and playing it again but with a bunch of community mods added so I can get a whole new experience.

      Am I the only one who, upon first playing Oblivion, would stop on a hill overlooking a lake (any lake, really) and wait until sunset just because it looked so pretty?

      Good times. Thanks for reminding me, Jane.

  5. Patrick A Crone

    Kinect is a mixed bag. I respect what Microsoft is trying to do with motion control. But there is alot of issues that need to be addressed. Not everyone has the space requirements to optimize it’s use. At this point, all the games require you to be standing. And probably the worst part is that it doesn’t do true 1:1 motion tracking. For a system that depends solely on your movements, having a delayed reaction to them is a big minus. I understand that MS is aiming at a more casual audience. But considering the device cost only $50 what the actual base 360 does, casual gamers might just spend that extra money for a Wii.

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