The first time I ever toyed with Microsoft's Kinect, I knew that motion control gaming probably wasn't for me. It was the spring of 2011, and I was at a friend's birthday party with a few acquaintances of mine. A few weeks before our gathering, my friend had been gushing to me about how "crazy" and "cool" his new piece of technology was. "You've got to try this out, dude," he'd say to me. "You'll like it. Everyone's got one. It's the future, man!"
My buddy had never gotten too excited about video games before, so I figured I should give in to all of his hubbub and at least give the sensor a shot; if this was really the future of my favorite pastime, I might as well learn to get with the times, right?
We popped in this weird thing called Kinect Adventures! and got ourselves rolling. After watching my friend show me the basics, he set me up to play Rally Ball, a Breakout clone where I use my whole body to swat a barrage of digital kickballs to rack up high scores.
Right from the get-go, things didn't go smoothly. My movements kept failing to register, the magic TV screen kept alternating between telling me to stay still and telling me to change my position in order to calibrate correctly, my avatar kept getting pounded in the face by kickball after kickball, and my friends around me couldn't help themselves from giggling at my failures. It was like trying to use my feet to type this paragraph. I couldn't help but nervously laughing either; I looked and felt like a clown.
I tell you this anecdote not to badmouth motion control tech like the Kinect, but to point out the ways it seems to function to the varying members of the modern gaming populace. There can be no doubt that the motion controls have, quite literally, changed gaming, but whether or not that change is good or bad really depends on who you're talking about.
For someone like me, a lifelong player who treats a buttons-and-joystick controller like it's a third hand—and hasn't ever had a problem with that—the change hasn't affected the way I enjoy my games all that much, for better and for worse. For someone like my friend, who never really got into gaming when many of today's "core" gamers did, the change has certainly helped, at least somewhat, to break down that troublesome barrier between the many complexities of modern gaming and the inexperienced player. And for the companies at the forefront of pushing the motion control trend, well, they've seen mixed results as well, as they've now been forced to consider whether or not making money and alienating a portion their audience have to be mutually exclusive with regard to this new form of interactivity.
Let's start with the positive. In concept alone, motion control platforms such as the Wii, Kinect, Move, and various handhelds and smartphones do stand to welcome a new type of audience to gaming. It's no secret that gaming in general has largely gotten exponentially more complicated over the past few decades. Yesterday's Atari 2600 controller, which had one button and one joystick, is today's Xbox 360 pad, which sees ten buttons, two joysticks, and a d-pad.
It may be hard for frequent gamers to imagine, but such a setup can be pretty perplexing to a newbie like my aforementioned pal. Things like the Wii, Kinect, and Move do their part to simplify that process by removing a bit of those complications, and making more control reliant on actions people inherently know how to do—a flick of the wrist here, a wave of the hand there. Judging by the millions upon millions of consumers who now own motion-enabled systems, the companies selling the hardware appear to have done a good job of getting even more people to at least give videogames a shot, if only for a little while.
So yes, spreading the videogame love with our unknowing brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers can only be a good thing. From there, though, we find a heap of troubling ramifications that have arisen as a result of motion controls' ascension.