Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hastily bottled venom

I suppose that I should explain my incredibly juvenile and hostile reaction to Kinect. I could also drop my pants and moon Microsoft from the relative safety of the great Midwest, but no one wants to see that, least of all me.

Microsoft (and Sony, for that matter) has been in an incredible rush to copy Nintendo's money making machine, and who can blame them. Nintendo opened up a whole new market to soak for dollars: people who don't actually play video games and have no desire to learn how. Nintendo can have them; it keeps them all in one place so they are easily avoided. Now Microsoft has come along with Kinect, a non-accessory accessory the relieves the "player" from the burden of using a controller to do things. Everything from navigating the dash board to giving virtual treats to a virtual pet (god damn tamagotchi) can be accomplished with a wave of the arms, a jump to the left, a step to the right and putting your hands on your hips.

Transvestite not included. Yet.

In my mind an innovation to an existing product must accomplish two things to be valid: do something better and actually improve the product. It may seem at first look that Kinect manages both of these, but if you take the full body controller and try to apply to it anything beyond minigames and fitness trainers it falls apart. For example, Kinect Star Wars.

Wow. Let's take these in reverse order. Lucasarts has finally given people a lightsaber simulator in the vain of Dark Forces 2 or The Force Unleashed, but in doing so they have stripped out the rest of game. Notice how the character never moves forward or to the side, only deals with things being thrown at him and lunging forward when they are all gone. This isn't a game, it's a laser shooting gallery. Take away the motion controls and no one would give it a second look. How does waving your arms around make it instantly better? Which bring me back to the first point, it doing something better than before. There is no way for Kinect, or any other current motion controller, to deliver the same kind of complex control required for actual games. Imagine relying on it for a game as fast paced as previous Star Wars games, or as complex as Mass Effect, or any other game that requires you to do more than one thing at a time. If an innovation requires the core product to be rolled back to its infancy, it really isn't an innovation, is it?

I'll tell you what it is: a marketing tool. It is nothing more than a way for Microsoft to try to steal away some of the non-gaming crowd from Nintendo, and it is an excellent idea from a business perspective. Wii owners (and here comes the insulting generalization) buy the consoles in droves, only first party games, and don't bitch when there are months and months between releases. They are the best kind of consumer: the one who doesn't complain.

All I have done here is yell and scream about how Kinect is not the right product for me. Thankfully, I am not the target, and even better still, Microsoft has not forgotten the likes of me. The first thirty minutes of their E3 presentation was filled with games that have no place for limb flailing due to their violence and complexity. I was sated just enough to endure the last two thirds of their presentation. It's still bullshit, but I don't have to buy it, and I really do wonder if even Microsoft believes that this is the way all games are going to eventually be.

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