Introducing: Kinect Adventures

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Today Microsoft officially announced the game I've been working on for the past 18 months or so, Kinect Adventures, for the hands-free Kinect controller (formerly known as Project Natal).

The gaming community's response to today's announcements has been a lot of hate.  Hate that all the announced titles are aimed at the casual market rather than the hardcore gamer.  Hate that these games are "rip-offs" of titles already available on the Wii.  Hate that Microsoft is offering something to a different demographic than its traditional male, shooter-loving adolescent.

Completely predictable.

Nintendo experienced the same thing when they launched the Wii, and took that hate all the way to the bank.  As demographics go, gamers are moderate fish in a fairly small pond.  With Kinect, Microsoft is digging a channel out to sea to go after bigger fish.  And smaller fish.  And fish of different colors, shapes, and sizes.  Gamers don't like that.  They want the pond all to themselves.

The magic of Kinect is hinted at by the videos, but doesn't fully manifest until you step in front of it yourself.  Until you do, your mind grasps the idea of the technology.  It understands on an abstract level that the thing works.  You think you know what it would be like to play a Kinect-enabled game.  But like the Matrix, nobody can tell you what it is-- you have to experience it for yourself.  And when you do, the walls of indifference, intellectual detachment, and self-assured rationalization crumble beneath the force of sheer childlike delight.  Kinect reaches behind your back and flips a hidden switch you didn't even know you had.  It's simple.  It's intuitive.  It's marvelous.

And it's nothing to be afraid of.  If a traditional controller is an oven, Kinect is a stove.  They're two different ways of doing similar things, each better at some things and worse at others.  There's room in the kitchen for both.

Kinect Adventures is a great launch title.  It's great for the entire family, supports players joining at any time (what we call easy-in, easy-out gameplay), can be played in short or long bursts, is incredibly easy to play, and lends itself very well to party situations.  The photos it takes of you as you play are always crowd-pleasers, and the ability to show off and share creative rewards with friends will appeal to social players.

Once people get a chance to get in front of Adventures and try Kinect, I think these things are going to sell themselves.

4 Comments

You're right that it's completely predictable, this happens every time. But I think classifying it as hate isn't quite right. I don't think most gamers actually hate Kinect, they just sound like it because that's the standard tone in video game culture. I think a more accurate description is "ennui expressed with rhetoric of revulsion." Maybe not as catchy as hate, but it does have some nice alliteration! :) A classic example is Penny Arcade's comic about the original Halo.

So, I disagree with your assertion that gamers don't like video game options being offered to the mainstream and that they want the pond all to themselves. It's just that that those mainstream options don't appeal to them, so they lash out with the extreme viciousness that the culture expects.

Plus, Kinect gets additional flak for being an add-on peripheral which have historically been terrible investments for gaming dollars due to poor software support. Cue vicious attack #2 based, not on the specifics of Kinect, but on the historical record of gaming peripherals.

Now as for me, I used to be a hardcore gamer but since fatherhood kicked in I hardly play video games at all. When I do play now, It's usually a short casual 'arcade' game. And yet the motion control stuff doesn't get me excited. I've tried to like the Wii, but I don't enjoy the imprecise user input. And a lot of Wii games seem like a WarioWare-esque collection of mini-games which doesn't do it for me. My suspicion is that the Kinect will fall into this bucket for me. But, unlike the community of gamers that need to keep up appearances, I have no vested interest to knock it before I try it. And even if I don't care for it, I've got a little girl that probably will (is there a "you must be at least this tall to use this peripheral" clause?)

I suppose my cynicism wasn't up to the task, so I have been mildly surprised by the reactions I've read so far. It seems that the story line isn't "imagine what it might mean for gaming" but "let me demonstrate my keen insight and eulogize it first, or most."

forget the haters. it's so much easier to criticize than laud. it reminds me of the crazy arguments between console and pc gamers...there's enough room for everyone in the gaming arena and i bet there will be hardcore game applications for kinect that people haven't even begun to consider. congrats on the announcement and pending launch.

You know who really gets my goat? Nathan's Hot Dogs. They act like they're all "down" with the extreme eating scene, sponsoring the occasional contest. Pfah. They totally PANDER to the "casual" hotdog-eating populace. Did you know if you go into a Nathan's and ask for "two", they'll give you two individual hot dogs, not two dozen?!? These are the kind of people I'm talking about. Most of their personnel aren't even equipped with stopwatches! You ask them to time you, and they just look at you funny. Oh man I hate those guys so much.

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