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.