Who doesn't want to be healthier? Getting healthier while playing video games is something that has been promised often in the past few years with the advent of active video game playing, but do they deliver? Specifically, is removing the controller completely and relying on body movement, the ticket to health by video game gold, ala the Kinect? This is what I, armed with a handful of active titles and a shiny Xbox360 and Kinect, decided to find out.
Like any tale of a quest, a good place to start is the beginning, the unboxing. The first thing I noticed was how incredibly large the 360 is in comparison to the tiny PS2 and Wii. I think I possibly burned a few calories just trying to find room for the console and Kinect.
Calibrating the Kinect was trickier than I had hoped. This was due to the fact that the apartment is a mere 600 square feet. Thankfully, I made it within the "OK" range, "good," but not "great," which meant that I could use this device and it would register my movements. If the distance in front of the TV had been 10 inches less, the Kinect would have been a no-go for my living room.
The adventure to discover better health via the Kinect logically began with the title included with the system, Kinect Adventures! This title after 20 minutes of game playing did not make me break a sweat and was not very intense. Adventures is a sort of merit badge winning stroll through various mini games during which pictures are taken to make you look foolish. In between the games there is a bit of downtime, and the games themselves are not terribly challenging (aside from the challenge of being seen by the Kinect in tiny apartments).
The next title that absorbed most of week one was the famous Dance Central. This was the game that I had heard amazing things about from friends and family and was the one my dance challenged self was most excited/scared to play. As you can probably guess, Dance Central is a game in which you try solo or with a friend to replicate the movements of professional dancers to set routines that vary by difficulty to current mainstream hits. Unlike Adventures, Dance Central could, depending on the songs played, be called "Sweat Central."
Although not the primary aim of the title, Dance Central provides a workout (the game does have a calorie counter that displays calories burned during a routine). This game is a lot of fun even though I am unfamiliar with the overwhelming majority of the songs. When it comes to recognizing the songs, your mileage will certainly vary and I have often been accused of "living under a rock" when it comes to pop music. My biggest wish for Dance Central is that it had some Bollywood songs and more songs from other decades. Sock hop? Yes, please.
The biggest thing I have noticed this week is that it is not easy to control the game functions via the Kinect. To be honest, navigating menus with one's body often borders on incredibly frustrating. The jury is out on whether this is because of the size of the living room or if it is just not an intuitive navigation system... my verdict is it is some combination of the two. While it is not fun trying to navigate a menu with the Kinect, it is hilarious watching someone else try their hand at it. Not sure what that would look like? Imagine someone looking like they are trying to use the Force on the TV and failing over and over.
Am I healthier after my first week with the Kinect? Not sure, although since they say laughter has health benefits, I probably should stop "adventuring," and simply watch my significant other try his hand at navigating a menu by using the Kinect.