Kinect: The very dangerous non-gamer experiment

Test subject: The Kids

By pure coincidence, on the day that I bring Kinect home, the kids (two daughters, 4 and 7) are also given a marble run set. Marble run, in case you don't know, consists of various twisty-turny bits of interconnectable track that you put together and roll marbles down. A bit like a luge rollercoaster for small glass balls. I was intrigued to see which of the new distractions - Kinect or the marble run - would end up being most popular with the kiddles.

Initially, they were more interested in marble run. We spend a lot of time assembling the track into numerous permutations, trying to figure ever more ingenious ways of making the most exciting layout with the pieces available. As play goes, it's pretty open-ended, hands-on, creative, constructive, educational and a lot of fun. Eventually, though, I suggest we take a break from marbles and try Kinectimals. They are instantly enthused when they get a look at the box and see the ickle fwuffy baby tiger on the front. They can't resist Skittles. Adorable little f*cker that he is.

Above: Kids wouldn't stand a chance if Skittles started selling drugs outside schools 

At first it goes well. The girls 'ooooh' and 'aaaah' in all the right places during the intro movie. They choose a baby big cat, give it a name (Foo-Fee) and can't wait to get started. But when they get into the game they struggle. They point at things on the screen and keep inadvertently entering menus and pausing the game and don't have a fuggin' clue how to get back to where they were.

They also move around too much for Kinect. It's a device that prefers its players to stand in one spot - to be well disciplined in the art of playing Kinect in a way that Kinect finds agreeable. From the comfort of the sofa I get more and more agitated as I watch them fail over and over and over. I offer some navigational instructions. First calmly, with a calming intonation of parental support.

"You're doing great, but you need to stand back a little bit sweetheart."

"Never mind darling. Try again, but this time move to the right a tiny bit."

It's only a matter of time before I get proper wound up at their inability to comply accordingly and be good Kinect compatible children.


Inevitably the kids get pretty pissed at dad barking orders at them. They get cross, frustrated and huffy. Just like dad. Soon they're sat down and watching while I'm throwing the imaginary ball and running frickin' Foo-Fee around Fiddlers Beach on my own.

We all decide that marble run is a much better family activity.

It's not completely the end of Kinectimals. We go back to it a couple of times, but it's just not for them. They love the animals, but they find it too fiddly and the activities aimless. They lose interest really quickly. The only two Kinect games that have held their attention and enthusiasm for more than 15 minutes are Joy Ride and, just like the missus, Dance Central.

Above: The kids playing Dance Central. This game is great for children because all they have to do is dance.
So it’s really hard for them to completely F*CK IT UP 

That said, not once in the entire six weeks have they come to me and asked "Can we play Kinect please?" Marble run, on the other hand, has seen plenty of action. Do not underestimate the entertainment value of small glass balls and an s-bend.

Verdict: Uninterested in anything Kinect currently has to offer. Prefer playing with marbles.

Test subject: The Mum

My mum always used to be a firm believer that video games were a big pile of stupid. When I was a kid spending hours shut in my room playing games that came on cassette tapes she'd always be on my case. "You'll never get a job playing that rubbish" she used to tell me. Turns out she was wrong. But me getting a job in the industry as a professional word writer still wasn't enough to change her lowly opinion of games.

It wasn't until she discovered Wii Bowling that she was willing to admit that playing games could actually be an enjoyable way to spend an evening. It wasn't a complete embracing of the culture - she still doesn't know how to turn the Wii on and even if she did figure it out eventually (like the monkeys with the typewriters), she has not a single clue as to which channel the TV needs to be switched to. However, under careful supervision and with adequate guidance, she's always bang up for a bit of Wii Bowling.

Above: The gateway drug to other bowling games 

With all that in mind, I knew Kinect Sports' bowling would be the best/only game to try with her. And, sure enough, she absolutely loved it.

She totally got it. Straight away. To her delight and amusement, she beat me in the first game we played. She loved that there were no controls. She loved that she didn't have to remember fundamentally important things like which buttons to press or which way round to hold the controller. Don't get me wrong, my mum's not stupid - far from it - but like a lot of 'older generationers' she is mentally incompatible with any form of technology invented after the 1970s. So, for my mum and people like her, removing the mind-boggling obstacle of controller operation is an absolute stroke of genius.

Above: Mum has just about figured out how one of these works 

She also loved the video playbacks at the end of each game. And she found it hilarious that if she waved her arm, her avatar's arm would wave with her. My mum finds simple things like that inexplicably amusing. She spent a lot of time waving at the TV with a funny look of childlike wonderment on her face. It reminded me a lot of that bit in Forrest Gump when Forrest waves at Lieutenant Dan before diving into the water, leaving his shrimp boat to crash into the pier.

After playing and having an absolute great time, her exact words were "So this is going to replace the Wii then?" That, I imagine, is exactly the kind of thing that Microsoft wants people like my mum to think. She doesn't know who makes what. She just knows that as far as the bowling goes, Kinect has taken it to the next level.

Verdict: Thinks bowling kicks ass. Unaware that it plays other games that are not bowling.


Most non-gamers will get *some* enjoyment from playing Kinect. The exact amount of enjoyment ranges from 'a bit' to 'a lot' and is currently determined by how much they will like either a) bowling or b) dancing. Because in the six weeks since Kinect launched, it's become pretty obvious to me that those are the two most fun things that Microsoft's controller-free future has to offer. They're the only two reasons that my Kinect gets called into action anymore.

That said, it does both those activities way better than Wii and, consequently, Kinect has replaced Nintendo's console as the thing to switch on when I want to keep non-gamers entertained for an hour or so when we've run out of conversation and things have got a bit quiet and awkward.

For me, as a proper gamer that plays games that are proper, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't enjoyed Kinect's admittedly limited offering of fun experiences. Kinect Sports' bowling and Dance Central are both great. I've even played Kinectimals on my own on more than one occasion. It doesn't beat playing with a controller, but the potential for new, creative experiences is definitely there and I can't wait to see what the likes of Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Child of Eden) and Suda 51 (Codename D) do with Microsoft's big long shiny black thing.

Did you buy Kinect at launch? Are you still playing it? Is it going to be the centre-piece of your Christmas entertainment schedule? Tell us the answer to these things and any other Kinect-related talking points in the comments.

Dec 23, 2010


  • Spybreak8 - December 26, 2010 6:57 p.m.

    Got the Kinect as a gift, as 2 days hands on I'm impressed but still I think this will get old fast. Now I have to buy Dance Central ahaha.
  • funster - December 24, 2010 1:36 a.m.

    I don't think it a stretch to say it is largely due to Microsoft's marketing department/oversized budget that the Kinect has done well. In the face of Sony's Move, MS cannot afford to let their close rival get the upper hand, so they're placing all their bets on a flawed piece of equipment. I'm not saying Move is superior or anything, but it must be important to MS to blunt Sony's new offering at the very least, if not outright trounce it.
  • HailCaeser - December 23, 2010 9 p.m.

    If I get a Kinect this year, I'm going to use it for skeet. I refuse to suffer watching my ditzy family d*ck around while they try to figure out how the Hell it works. Besides, I have a Wii, so two motion control systems/add-ons I need not, and guess which one doesn't have Super Mario Galaxy.
  • GAYMER - December 23, 2010 8:13 p.m.

    Freddy Mercury wouldn't say that, lol
  • MrDuracraft - December 23, 2010 7:59 p.m.

    My older sister sounds just like your mum+the non-gamer. I am glad we do not own an Xbox, because then I would never be able to play it.
  • celticsfan645 - December 23, 2010 7:36 p.m.

    That is Dangerous. You are lucky you even made it out alive Houghton
  • EliteM0nk3y - December 23, 2010 7:03 p.m.

    My first (and only) time playing Kinect was when i was at a friends house and we were all drinking beer. Best way to enjoy Kinect. Even Fighter's Uncaged seemed like a good game.
  • bilstar - December 23, 2010 6:59 p.m.

    I still can't see many fun times coming out of Kinect. I just can't see a pull for me. Other people have said it's more aimed for the kids, but I can't really see which of these shallow experiences are gonna hook the kids for any length of time (they're not stupid y'know). I was pretty disappointed to hear that Matt's kids had trouble with the navigation and management (if you will) of Kinectimals, I assumed that those aspects were so crucial to the experience that they would be nailed down hard by the developer. I'm all for gaming innovation and gaming does innovate really well quite often. But I just can't see any good place the Kinect is going. I want to tho!
  • Darkhawk - December 23, 2010 6:54 p.m.

    It makes me very happy to read about kids picking real world creation activities over video games. I'm not anti-games-for-kids, but at least this proves our young still have imaginations.
  • EricBratcher - December 23, 2010 6:22 p.m.

    I love the entry about Matt's mom. That's pretty much the same as my own mother, though her next question would be if it has any games that involve gardening.
  • thefreakysurgeon - December 23, 2010 5:36 p.m.

    even though Kinect's motion sensors are better than the wii's, i still feel that it's a big waste of money.
  • rxb - December 23, 2010 4:49 p.m.

    I sense a backlash coming when alot of people realise they have bought a two game add on for 129 quid. This story reminds me a bit of my 6 year old cousin wanting to play megaman 9 until he found out how hard it was. Kids these days.....
  • tacoman38 - December 23, 2010 4:46 p.m.

    the games that everyone loves the most is the minecart and river raft minigames on adventures. obstacle course (on a boat) are pretty self explanatory, and amusing to watch. And on the minecart one, you don't need to tell people to stop moving around as much, as they can see where their avatar is located on the cart. Dance Central may be good, but I'm of the belief that Adventures is the best release game, and it's a good choice to be bundled with the kinect.
  • Keefster10 - December 23, 2010 4:12 p.m.

    That was a pretty entertaining article lol... well done However I'm not surprised. One trick ponies get old fast...
  • Snowyjoe - December 23, 2010 3:13 p.m.

    Pretty interesting since Kinect was pretty much designed as a "family" game.... but what's the point of it being a family game if you're the only one in the family that can play it.....
  • Syncmaster - December 23, 2010 2:23 p.m.

    I envy you for having a game hater girlfriend. I have the opposite, nowdays I cant even touch god of war 3 or assassins creed if she is not by my side watching.. of playing coop.. /sarcam
  • RCTrucker7 - December 23, 2010 1:43 p.m.

    Awesome Cundy. The whole section of playing with your girls was an exact matching of me playing with my 6 year old son, on some games. (Non Kinect, as I haven't totally gotten to where I want to buy it yet.) @henmo68 - i think it's supposed to be a house; picket fence, windows, roof looking symbols. But I think it got messed up in the posting process.
  • Ell223 - December 23, 2010 1:32 p.m.

    Cundy always delivers the funniest articles.
  • SQU33G - December 23, 2010 1:28 p.m.

    For whatever you're doing in life, just add some green
  • Furyspittles - December 23, 2010 1:23 p.m.

    These adbots are slowly getting cooler and cooler. I don't know what that is a picture of, but it looks impressive. Like a dream factory or something.

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