I finally did it over the holidays — I took a deep breathe, hung my head and walked into my local game store to purchase a Kinect. If you frequent the gaming channel of CraveOnline often then you know how much I dislike, to put it mildly, Microsoft’s controller-less motion controller. Ever since the magic of the device’s initial reveal wore off, I’ve made it a point to turn my nose up at the device at every available opportunity.
The peripheral has been out for over a year now and its library of games still sucks; the motion tracking isn’t as accurate as we all dreamed it would be; and maybe most heartwrenching of all, non-sanctioned tech aficionados around the globe are doing more impressive things with the device than Microsoft could ever hope to accomplish, yet, we’ll probably never see those feature implemented in any official capacity.
Yet, here am I with a Kinect resting comfortably in my living room. Why? Well, part of me decided to suck it up and buy the damn thing for you. Yes, you! Since writing about games is my job (I’m not complaining, I swear), I figure it best that I have some familiarity with the device, no matter how much I think I dislike it. If the Kinect is the “future” of Xbox, I better toy around with it first before completely writing it off. Having a Kinect also allows me to be a more balanced observer of the gaming industry. That’s probably the main reason my wallet is now $130 lighter (the dent wasn’t as bad due to holiday sales).
The other reason I sucked it up and bought a Kinect is because of Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 dashboard. It seems like a silly reason to spend over $100, but the new dashboard is built with Kinect in mind. The motion control device and the Xbox 360 user interface are now one in the same. Therefore, I wanted to give it a spin and see how much “better” it makes the experience of navigating my 360’s menus.
And, long story short, that’s actually how I wound up falling in love with the Kinect: controlling menus, of all things. Sure, my Kinect bundle came with three titles — Kinect Adventures, Fruit Ninja Kinect and The Gunstringer — but I use the device far more for simply navigating menus, firing up video apps and verbally telling my 360 to play the next episode of my latest favorite show. I can get in and out of all my 360 Apps without ever removing my hands from inside my pants. It’s a beautiful thing.
Now that’s not to say the Kinect functionality with the new dashboard is perfect — it isn’t. There are times when the Kinect doesn’t register my commands, or picks up a sound from a show I’m watching and performs an unrequested action, or plans my inevitable demise at the hands of the Great Robot Revolution of 2012, but for the most part, the Kinect makes navigating menus a little more futuristic and fun. It’s now become a bragging right to tell my friends I can command my 360 with the power of my own voice.
I still feel the software lineup of the Kinect severely lacks. The games available are good time wasters and something fun to bust out at a party for a couple of hours, but little else. Yet, I still stand by my Kinect purchase thanks to voice control. It’s provided a glimpse into the future of managing my media center, one that seems closer and closer to Minority Report every day, and that puts a big ol’ smile on my face. That is until my Kinect rebels and murders me in my sleep, of course. But until that day comes, consider me "better with Kinect."