Kinect: The very dangerous non-gamer experiment

OK, so this experiment isn't actually very dangerous at all. I admit that I only put the words 'very dangerous' in the headline to spice it up a bit. I guess if you factor in the unpredictability, lack of coordination and inferior motor skills of some of my 'test subjects', coupled with the potential for physical collisions in the defined play area, then there was definitely some element of risk involved. Actually, thinking about it, it’s an absolute miracle I escaped the exercise unharmed.

Anyway. The 'experiment' involved me taking Kinect home on the day it was released and connecting it to my TV. I then spent time over the following weeks playing a bunch of Kinect games with various friends and family who rank as 'remedial' on the gamer ability spectrum. This is what happened.

Test subject: The Missus

My girlfriend has an irrational hatred of video games. Or, at least, video games designed to be played on machines boasting more than 16-bits of computing power. Just getting her to try Kinect is a lot like coaxing the kids into eating cabbage. I tell her that if she plays Kinect she'll grow up to be big and strong. But she's not buying it.

She stands in front of the TV and Kinect looks her up and down.

"What’s it doing?" she asks.

"Scanning you" I say.

She doesn't trust it. Not one bit. George Orwell warned her about this sort of thing. It doesn't help when I mention that it's connected to the internet. I can tell her brain is formulating a conspiracy theory. There's paranoia behind her eyes. I suspect she's thinking that Kinect will take covert footage of her ass hanging out her pyjamas. It will send the footage to the Government and it will be used as part of some shadowy plot against women who lack the moral fibre to keep their asses safely confined within their night garments.

Above: Combining controller-free gaming and covert corporate surveillance

She may have a point, but eventually I persuade her to stop fretting and try a bit of bowling.

It doesn't go particularly well. In fairness, it's not Kinect's fault. She deliberately stops trying when I start winning. However, when she scores a strike and the chorus of Queen's 'We are the champions' begins playing, there is definitely a smile on her face. I can tell that, secretly, she is almost enjoying herself. But the fleeting victory moment isn't enough to convince her that this futuristic virtual sport of mime bowling is something that can further enrich her life.

Above: He made the best song for winning

I do my best to spark some Kinect enthusiasm from her on various occasions, but she's so completely not interested it's pointless. As soon as any game reminds her to take a break if feeling tired or sore (Kinect is neurotic in its concerns for player health), she claims to be feeling both tired and sore and it's probably best that she doesn't play any more. "I'd rather read a book" she says.

Just when I think the missus is done with Kinect for good, Dance Central spontaneously lures her back. She loves shaking her bad self on a Sunday afternoon to FannyPack's 'Hey Mami'. She genuinely has a good time playing a video game. Which is something that doesn't happen very often. Dance Central succeeds where most games post-SNES have failed miserably.

Verdict: Loves Dance Central. Doesn't love anything else. Suspects that Kinect is in cahoots with Skynet.

Test subject: The non-gaming mate

Unlike my other test-subjects, the non-gaming mate was - through exposure to advertising - already aware that Kinect existed and what the general concept was all about. He was familiar with Nintendo's own motion-sensing console and - based on the advertisement information he had absorbed - presumed that Kinect was "like the Wii but without the controller." Which sums it up nicely for the average consumer on the street.

As with any kind of experimentation undertaken with a good friend, I thought the consumption of alcohol would be an excellent idea. So we went to the pub and had a couple of boozes. We were in no way inebriated. The quantity of alcohol was intended to raise our enthusiasm for carrying on like a couple of twats beyond what is normally achievable in a state of sobriety.

Above: A few jars down the pub is a great way to improve your Kinect experience

So, we got home from the pub and stuck on Kinect Sports. Table Tennis up first. As I was expecting, he was straight in and needed no coaching other than what the game provided. To be honest, the game - as impressed with it as he was - became a bit of a sideshow. More entertaining was dicking about for the video playbacks and trying to contort our bodies into physically challenging positions in order to spaz out our jolly on-screen avatars. They still looked jolly no matter what bone-breaking position we managed to get their limbs into.

Same thing with the bowling. It didn't matter who won, we were just happy to be dancing like robots for the replays or throwing victory shapes to the music after scoring a strike. We both concluded that for additional entertainment value in whatever you're doing in life, just add alcohol. Apart from driving an automobile or flying a plane or steering a boat or operating heavy machinery that could rip your arm off if you absent-mindedly forget what you're doing, leaving you ineligible for any compensation owing to you being completely pished.

Above: Kinect lifestyle shots should include at least five pints of lager

Maybe I should re-phrase. For additional entertainment value when playing casual, motion-based gaming, just add alcohol. It worked wonders for me and my non-gaming test subject. With its fancy record and playback feature and list of pop music favourites ensuring the art of gloating is taken to another level, the presentational shine of Kinect Sports really blows Wii Sports out the shallow end when it comes to funny drunken-assery opportunities.

In the interests of conducting a proper professional experiment, my mate also played after not having drunk any drink. Apart from maybe a nice cup of non-alcoholic tea. He still enjoyed Kinect without the booze. But there just wasn't as many laughs.

Verdict: Enjoyed it so much that the test subject told other people about playing it. Would never seriously consider buying a 360 just for Kinect though.

Next: More insane Kinect madness!

I don't have the energy to really hate anything properly. Most things I think are OK or inoffensively average. I do love quite a lot of stuff as well, though.