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Monday July 26, 2010 2:39 pm

E3 2010 Post-Coital Shame: The Sky is Falling - Kinect Edition

Kinectimals skittles

If you didn’t go to this year, well, you didn’t miss much. I mean, well, you missed dancing. And space marines. And Skittles.

You missed Skittles the Dancing Space Marine, the unofficial mascot of .

Microsoft hatef*cked their audience with scripted hilarity and dated motion control games. Sony pimped a new 3D TV technology that costs thousands and can only be watched by a few people at a time. Nintendo was the show’s net positive with a bunch of new, awesome games and the 3DS’s grand appearance.

Some commentators looked at this year’s presentation and predicted the fall of the game industry. Others sighed and walked away. Some of us were unable to post because we were caught somewhere inbetween the NBA Finals riots and my third vodka and red bull, which was weak, and I took notice of that.

I’m here to tell you that things aren’t quite as grim as some would have you believe. This time around, I want to talk about . Hit the jump for some ill-informed musings.

Make no mistake - there really wasn’t much in the way of innovation at this year’s show. If it wasn’t a dancing or movement control game, it was space marines. And if it wasn’t one of those, it wasn’t playable. Companies like Square Enix bought huge amounts of floor space to show trailers all day. The next Ghost Recon game was quietly tucked away in the ruckus of the floor. Exhibitors like Bethesda and Activision were ultra-exclusive for their game demos. Most people on the floor were left to nip at the scraps.

Microsoft’s press conference was an hour-long exercise in sizzling contempt for intellectual decency.

For an hour and a half, we, as a unified gaming consciousness, squirmed uncomfortably in the face of the kind of phony immersion you could only get from paying the extra Jackson to get the hooker to cuddle with you.

Let’s talk design. Motion controls, for my money, cannot be completely immersive because they lack tactile feedback. It’s what separates playing the Rock Band drums from flailing around like an idiot while playing Wii Music. Look at that video. Where Kinect should be selling us on full-body immersion, we’re getting pitched on virtual fondling.

But that’s not what I want to talk with you about today. I want to talk to you about Dance Central.

Yes, their appearance at the press conference may have come off a tad…awkward, but it’s developers like Harmonix that are going to save Kinect. Dance Central won a bevvy of awards at the show, and for good reason. It’s fun - VERY fun - and you just can’t pull it off the same way on the Wii or the Move. It takes unique advantage of the platform, is accessible to all ages, and doesn’t try to sell us on stupid gimmicks. The key to successful alternative control platforms is meaningful interaction, and HMX has that in spades. It makes no effort to do what it can’t for the sake of a bullet point on the back of a box. Dance Central isn’t going to have a Ballroom Dancing mode where you need to pretend to grope a partner.

Kinect is not a gimmick. The gimmick is in the game.

Most other games that we saw on the floor were either missing the tactile element you need for authentic, object-based immersion, or tacked on, useless Kinect features made seemingly for gits and shiggles. What I saw in Dance Central was a carousel of good ideas that can be implemented with Kinect. Microsoft has one of the easiest platforms to develop for, and once XNA supports Kinect development, we can expect to see a lot of amazing games without the gratuitous, ineffective marketing and insulting presentations that treat us like we’re either all senile or underdeveloped.

The fact remains, though, that Dance Central alone is not going to carry a $200 ship into port. I see Kinect having a tough time getting off the ground in its current condition. But with these tools in the right hands, Kinect can be something great.

Me? I’m waiting on a Space Marine pet simulator.



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