Ben's 12 Days of Christmas Memories - Day 9: Kinect

Yep! Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. I said the Kinect.

When the Project Natal camera was first announced I thought it looked pretty cool. Microsoft showed off all these features for the thing (most of which weren't real), and I genuinely thought it could be a fun add on for the 360. I wasn't 100% sold on the thing, but I figured why not at least give it a try? So a year or so went on, the project was officially renamed "Kinect," and finally it was coming out in time for Christmas. This was back in 2010.

That year was a bit different for me. I didn't know for sure what I wanted for Christmas, but I knew Rockband 3 had come out, and I really wanted to get songs that were being blocked by Lego Rockband. So one weekend me and my mom headed over to Best Buy to see what they had, and that's when I saw it. The Kinect was set up in the back of the store, and they were allowing people to try it out. As stupid as it might sound, the thing actually shocked me.

The motion tracking with the Kinect was nothing like I had seen before. The character on screen moved almost exactly the same way I did, and the mini games were actually fun. It was like an upgraded Wii Sports, and you could even have two people playing it at once. Sure, I knew it wasn't a game that would keep me busy forever, but I knew of the other games that were coming out, and of the features Microsoft promised. At the very least I'd have fun with Sonic Free Riders (I loved the Riders series), and then could use the Kinect for the other features as well. Either way that day at Best Buy sold me on it. Really it wasn't that expensive, but considering I was now 19, it was a pretty big gift. Not to mention the few games I got along with it.

That year was one of the first years where I actually made a list. The idea was to write down some things I wanted, and then my family members would pick a few things out of it. It kept things as a surprise, and was a way for me to let others know what I already had or didn't have. So knowing that I was already getting a Kinect and Rockband, I jotted down a few Kinect games, as well as anything else I could think of. Of course I didn't get everything on that list, but what people did buy me was pretty unexpected. Not because they actually bought me games I wanted, but because of what games they were.

Putting the Kinect aside for the moment, that year was when my grandparents bought me the ESA Game Pack. Previously that year I had managed to save for a PlayStation 3, but I didn't have many games for it. This game pack came with Uncharted, Mercenaries 2, and Tomb Raider Underworld, all for a very low price. I had seen it in stores before, but I didn't know much about any of the series, so I never picked it up. Getting it as a gift though was pretty amazing. When I got home that night the first thing I did was play Uncharted, and before I knew it I was hooked. Thanks to that night alone Uncharted would become a favorite series of mine, and is what lead me to buy Uncharted 2 not too long after. It was a great gift, and completely unexpected. Besides that game pack I also received Sonic Colors and Valkyria Chronicles 2, but my big gift that year was still the Kinect and RB3.

As everyone knows, the Kinect had issues. It didn't work as well as people thought it should, and games like Sonic Free Riders was bashed by fans and critics alike. That's why many might not believe me when I say I might be the only person in the world it worked for. Yep, I didn't have any issues at all.

My house setup was less than ideal for Kinect, but I made it work. I moved some chairs around, and stood back against the wood panel wall in my living room. I was pretty far back from the Kinect itself as I did this, but it seemed to be that "perfect" spot for it. Here Sonic Free Riders picked up every movement of mine without issue, and I was able to jump straight into the races no problem. I had nearly perfect control over the characters, all of the power up item motions worked for me as they should, and I was able to pull off tricks just as the game asked. The only down side was that the game killed my knees (you had to physically crouch, hold that position, then jump up and rotate a full 360 degrees in the air and land face forward to do tricks), but I got over it. I wasn't the most fit person in the world, but I'm sure carrying at least 20-30 lbs on my back everyday at college helped (that darn laptop). But anyway, I had a lot of fun with that game. Looking at videos on YouTube of it showed other players struggling with an unresponsive game, but it just didn't happen for me. And I'm glad it didn't!

The other Kinect games I received were fun enough on their own, but I got bored with them just as I expected. Sonic was really the only one I would keep going back to, but even then you could only play the same thing so much. Eventually my Kinect became a forgotten accessory I never used, and ended up getting boxed up and stored away. It didn't help that my Xbox 360 would die roughly 2 years later, but at least those games weren't a total loss. In fact Rockband 3 is something I'd be using a lot in the years to come.

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