Dani Klein Modisett: As someone who doesn't even get a kick out of online Scrabble, clearly I am not the primed buyer for the new Kinect Xbox 360. Which is probably exactly why I got a special bar-coded invitation to the Cirque du Soleil-inspired world premiere presentation of the new Kinect two nights ago in a stadium in downtown Los Angeles.
Given the amount of pomp and circumstance and the number of security guards with earpieces, you would have thought the pope was christening it. Cynically, I would love to tell you that Microsoft was bringing a lot of heat and no meat to the gaming table, but that is simply not true. I don't know how better to say this, but if I were a 10-year-old kid (or, from what I could see, a 20- to 40-year-old man), I would call this new entertainment system, "Totally insane!"
Assuming you really like to move when you relax, the options that this gaming system offers actually do look like fun for the whole family. In any country, I might add.
The producers of this event took great pains -- using jumbo video screens, live actors and lots of leotard-clad "natives" writhing on the floor of the arena -- to illustrate how mind-blowingly fun it is to virtually whitewater raft, engage in track and field sports (and win!) and go on safari (and pet a tiger!) as a whole family. Let's just say that they take the name "Kinect" rather seriously, their message being that now is the time to connect as a family and as a world, and this is what the Xbox 360 is designed to help you do (without ever leaving your living room or picking up a remote control).
Nevertheless, my eyes kept getting drawn to the couple sitting on a couch suspended by cables above the arena relentlessly marveling at all the activities they could engage in if only they could get up. My fear is that after a few months of fake javelin-throwing and exhaustingly racing my 7-year-old without going anywhere, I might feel exactly the same way. But like I said, I'm not the audience for this motion-sensitve innovation. I know I'm not, because my kids were tripping over themselves when I got home, desperate to hear all about it as soon as I walked in.
"Can we get one, Mom, can we get one? How soon can we get one??" they yelled over each other. I did a tiny rant about how virtual worlds make me nervous, and didn't they want to really whitewater raft, and not just act like they were?
"But Mom," my older boy said, "we don't have a raft. And the closest water we live near is the L.A. River."
The purist in me felt challenged. Because if these games inspire kids to want to experience the real thing, sport, outing, dance, yoga or "Star Wars" battle (OK, maybe not that last one) -- all of which the Kinect Xbox 360 includes -- how could this be a bad thing? And certainly, if the alternative is you and your kids hanging in the living room in various prone positions eating snacks watching Patrick blubber on about his lack of Krabby Patties to SpongeBob, I'm thinking it could be a very good thing, indeed.
It's available November 2010, so enjoy sitting while you can.