Saturday, November 20, 2010

Only Kinect

Today I went to a thanksgiving party in Kowloon, where our host had hired the clubhouse at his apartment complex for the day, which meant we were some of the very few people in Hong Kong who had the space to set up an Xbox with Kinect.

A short explanation may be required:
  1. Most flats in Hong Kong are the same size as a reasonable kitchen or bathroom in other countries. This means we can fit a lot more homes into the space that is available. If you're rich, or your company pays an enormous housing subsidy to you, it's possible to live in a miniaturised flat that's part of an enormous, multi-towered complex with onsite gym, swimming pool, tennis courts, bowling alley, supermarket, golf course, etc etc. Or you live in a similar sized flat in a rectangular box, but save on paying for those extraneous facilities.

    If you have a particularly palatial complex, there's usually a clubhouse, which again can range from a couple of function rooms and a barbecue pit, up to a grand hall containing full kitchen with four ovens, a miniature cinema, a makeshift cockfighting arena, etc etc.

    Ours lacked even the rudimentary facilites described above for the pitting of fowl-on-fowl in needless, evil and deadly combat, but it had a large kitchen and a room upstairs with a huge television that was at least seven feet from the opposite wall.
  2. Microsoft have released Kinect, a videogame add-on for their Xbox that will tell you you're too close to the screen if you come within six feet of it. For somebody in an American McMansion, no big deal - just step back a bit. For most people in Hong Kong, however, six feet away from the television means leaving your apartment and gazing sadly in through your front doorway.
Because of these two factors, it was almost inevitable that one of our number would bring a Kinect-equipped Xbox, and that I'd not waste the opportunity to get sweaty and exhausted jumping up and down in front of a television.

It's a shameful experience. Computer games are bad enough without making it look as though you're attempting a particularly inept, but sped-up, version of tai-chi. There are few complicated controls to learn - it's just you waving your arms in front of the tv, after all - but that also means the games aren't very sophisticated. Boxing, for example, is a game of who-can-mime-punching-thin-air-fastest: no ducking or weaving. It's as though boxing consisted of two men squaring up and then continually belting each other until one fell over.

The dismal rendition of the sweet science aside, it's great fun for ten minutes, until you're exhausted and need a sit down. Or you realise jumping up and down on a broken toe is a bit dumb. The lack of sophistication means it's good for social interaction: people can wander in and out and muck around with a bit of bowling or what have you, but it's not the sort of thing to hold your attention for several hours like a 'proper' computer game.

Probably a good thing when you're meant to be concentrating on a Thanksgiving meal, then.


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