Man Down! (A.K.A. Yes, I Threw Out My Back Playing Kinect)

I didn’t jump on the Wii bandwagon, and I wasn’t impressed with the Move – but when the controller-free Kinect came out, I was willing to give motion gaming a chance. As it turns out, these things just aren’t for everyone.

If you read any of my articles leading up the release of Microsoft’s motion gaming peripheral, you know that I was pretty excited. Before I get into the exciting story of how I managed to damage myself, I want to get into a few of the problems I ran into with the Kinect.

First of all, since the Kinect sensor tracks your entire body including your feet, you have to have a fairly large amount of space between you and the sensor. My couch is around eight feet away from my TV as it is, but I ended up moving it back against the wall to play ‘Kinect Adventures’ with my roommate.

When it came time for ‘Dance Central’, I had to move the couch completely so that I’d have enough space to move. We’re looking at around nine or ten feet of distance between me and the sensor. If you’ve got a smaller room, Kinect is just plain not going to work.

Another problem that became complicated fast was that of lighting. When the sun was shining bright I was unable to play with the blinds open. I had to shut them completely or the sensor wouldn’t properly detect me. It’s kind of a shame.

You’ll also want to be conscious of your neighbors downstairs if you’re living in an apartment. Games like ‘Kinect Adventures’ require jumping. It’s one of those titles you probably shouldn’t be playing too late at night.

Still, I got the system set up, got that couch moved and started playing. I was psyched to finally give ‘Dance Central’ a go. The hope was that building my skill in the game would similarly build my skill at actual dancing.

Sure, it’s a little lame, but who wouldn’t want to be able to really show off on the dance floor? I’ve got a high-school reunion coming up at the end of the year, and it would be incredibly cool to be able to jump out there and do something unexpected. I’m a geek after all. We’re not known for our physical prowess.

Things started off fine. I rocked through the various difficulty levels of “Poker Face” and moved on to a few songs I wasn’t quite as familiar with. Tracks like “Hey Mami” got boring quickly, and I decided to step things up a bit – I was getting 5 star ratings on the early tracks.

I rode the train, pushed it, and even busted a move with various levels of success. It’s a pretty good workout, but a lot of those old-school songs were a little easy, even for someone who’s never done any dancing in the past.

I thought to myself, “Hey self, let’s kick it up a bit and try something far out of our comfort zone.” So what the hell, I decided it was time to give Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” a shot. That, as it turns out, was a mistake.

If you’re not familiar with the video, hit the link below and take a little bit of time to familiarize yourself. The music is dreadful, but the dance is kind of neat. I went through the instructional mode that breaks down each move and managed to get all the way through. It wasn’t easy, but I managed.

Then it was time to perform the song, which would put all of the moves in a row for me to execute in a relatively quick fashion. This didn’t work out so well.

At one point there’s a move which is almost certainly called the Superman that requires you to lean forward and perform what looks a bit like a breast stroke. Right after that, you bounce to one side while moving your hands as if revving a motorcycle. Again, the video is your key to understanding this – they do the move ad nauseam.

I was supposed to go quickly from bending right to standing up straight left and then bouncing right again. Instead, I went quickly from bending right to standing up straight left, and then falling to the floor in severe pain.

Now, I’m not blaming ‘Dance Central’ for my crappy back, and I’m definitely not trying to call out the Kinect as somehow bad because I managed to injure myself using it. I’m a little injury prone as it is. So if I were going to blame the Kinect, I’d have to blame bikes, docks, water, ice, and small rocks too.

A computer-based job combined with a computer-based hobby does not an athlete make. I’m not exactly fat, and I’m not exactly out of shape, but I’m definitely not going to be running any marathons. I’m also incredibly unlikely to continue playing Kinect games.

The most important lesson that I took from this experience – aside from the fact that I should probably get some exercise every now and again – is that motion gaming just isn’t for everyone. It’s definitely not for me.


  1. i’m with you, i made it through crank that on hard, i’m pretty sore still a day and a half later, but i almost got 5 stars @ 290 i felt accomplished when i was done

    but i’ll keep playing, nothing as serious as throwing out a back

  2. Haha! I feel your pain, I was just wondering how long it would be before I read this. I kill myself playing Zelda and Tennis, and remember me and my friends passing out after the powerpad came out and we played World Class Track Meet. And my friends and I really work up a sweat on Rockband! So I can just imagine you hurting yourself playing a dancing game!

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