A Kinect Defense: One Gamer's Needs - LetMeGetToACheckpoint Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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A Kinect Defense: One Gamer's Needs

I am deaf.  I am a gamer.  My deafness impacts my gaming.  Currently, I support the Xbox One largely due to the Kinect. 

While I do not speak for all deaf, only for myself, as a community the deaf are committed to technology.  Not all of us are necessarily tech savvy but we are dedicated to maintaining the adaptive technology that gives us access to the hearing world. 

 

The Xbox One we all know and many despise.  A TTY which was revolutionary technology in its time.  Devices with one purpose are becoming obsolete.

In the 80's we had a separate box connected to the television to allow closed captions and in the 90's we navigated television menus before smart televisions made menus easy to access in order to turn on captions.  We wore analog hearing aids that were effectively mini speakers on our ears and now digital hearing aids are tiny computers affixed to our heads.  Before everyone had a cell phone much less a smart phone we had pagers and used TTYs with texting shorthand long before smartphones included keyboards.  We fastened cameras to our PCs as soon as the technology was available in hopes of video streaming that let us communicate with each other by sight whether using sign language and/or lip reading.  In those early days the video quality was so bad that only the most persistent kept trying.  Now video relay technology does not even require a phone line but connects solely via the internet either by video phone or by an app on an iPad, iPhone or PC. 

The Kinect is a camera.

 

A current generation TTY, a video phone that could be integrated into the Xbox One with an app. 

We are all still piecing together various sources of information about the new consoles.  The Kinect's exact uses in both gameplay and multimedia applications remain unclear but the possibilities exist.  Perhaps Xbox One owners will be able to stream their gameplay with both voice overlay and the ability to split or switch screens that shows the playing gamer thereby allowing viewers to put a face to the voice.  Or allow for video of our multiplayer team members that lets me to read lips as much as possible or at least see who is talking.  Or besides connecting to others via Skype maybe I can connect via video phone as well with a future video relay app using the Kinect as a centrally located device rather than a video phone in some remote corner of the house.  While I am daydreaming maybe the Kinect will one day be refined enough to respond to motion control commands that are actually signs in sign language.  My pie in the sky dreams are not certain but are not wishes for my own floating castle either.

I understand that most are not deaf.  But I am and the hearing world does not often suit my needs.  I am constantly looking for technology that gives me new access.  Sometimes new technology excludes me more than the previous technology.  I have felt largely excluded from console multiplayer this generation due to an inability to access Xbox Live Chat.  I have limited funds to test out elaborate (elaborate for me at least) cord configurations to integrate my hearing aids and its peripherals as a headset.  The current Xbox 360 marketplace is filled with apps and video content that are useless to me without captions.  Still, I am constantly pushed forward into new technology out of an inherent need to find methods that allow me to better communicate with others.  In gaming, the only resource I know of that explicitly determines for me prior to purchase if a game includes usable captions or other accessible features is previous Game Informer intern, Josh Straub, at dagersystem.com and he can only be a one man army.   

An unassuming head set but many used it (and then upgraded). 

Microsoft learned a very valuable lesson with the Xbox 360.  Peripherals included in the console purchase makes the peripheral standard before the peripheral is proven as a "must have" that provides a better gaming experience as we saw with headsets for multiplayer chat.  The Playstation 4 will now include headsets in the box.

Okay so I don't play Kinectimals but the young children in my family really go nuts.  The tykes don't follow E3 so the kiddies didn't insist that I buy Kinectimals with Bears. 

Microsoft will now include the new Kinect with every Xbox One.  The Kinect for the Xbox 360 is clearly not even a basic gaming device.  My own Kinect is currently very dusty.  Kinect owners trot out Dance Central and Kinect Adventures for parties.  I do not have children but I keep a copy of Kinectimals and Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster for the small children in my extended family who visit.  I am a deaf person who can speak.  I laughed yelling dragon shouts and orders from Commander Shepherd at the Kinect but I recognize the current voice controls in games and their "Better with Kinect" tagline as a gimmick.  But every single Xbox One owner will have an integrated Kinect that can use voice commands and/or motion controls to access the Xbox One from menus to apps to game implementation.  Voice commands are already becoming ubiquitous with smart phone users acquainted with Siri and Skyvi.  Once seemingly bizarre hand movements such as zooming in and out on touch screens are now common.           

The Eye is watching too. 

Playstation 4 is also establishing a console that reads its user by integrating the console with Playstation's camera, the Eye.  Like the Kinect, the exact uses of the Eye remain vague except for notions of split screen and awareness of the gamer.  However, the Eye is sold separately despite the camera's built-in connection with the console and controller.  I understand Sony's apprehension with video game peripherals.  The Wonderbook, Playstation 3D Display television, and the Move have not become game changers.  With the Eye packaged separately developers will have little incentive to utilize the technology in new and integral ways because only a fraction of the user base will purchase the peripheral. 

Certainly, I understand the common argument that a console is for games so the multitasking of the Xbox One is suspect.  These consoles cost $400-$500.  I love gaming and I daily go far out of my way to include gaming with my 5:00 AM game time.  I am not rich or even financially comfortable.  I cannot justify spending hundreds of dollars then buying an online subscription, games, controllers, and batteries only to play games.  If I win the lottery tomorrow, certainly I will purchase an Xbox One and a Playstation 4 along with a massive television.  In my current financial state, my gaming console has long doubled as my DVD player.  When I spend $100-$200 on a new smart phone I expect the phone to do much more than conduct voice phone calls.  In fact, some deaf get data only cell phone plans.  I expect my laptop to run multiple programs that meet different needs on my laptop from e-mail and internet to design programs such as the Adobe Creative Suite.  I need my gaming console to do more than play games to justify the cost but I buy my console because I game. 

Everyone has jokes, the Kinect definitely is not for everyone. 

I must acknowledge that Microsoft has the most atrocious talking heads for public speaking from Adam Orth, infamous with the "why on earth would I live there?" regarding the impact in rural areas of the always connected rumors of the time to Don Mattrick who suggested those without broadband buy an Xbox 360.  Clearly there is a cultural and a systemic issue within Microsoft resulting in people who are unable to at least empathize with the impact of their decisions.  An Xbox One conversation must be implicit with the understanding that its gamers have a reliable broadband internet and an understanding of the ramifications of that decision.    

There are valid reasons to choose either a Xbox One or a Playstation 4.  No matter which one we choose we can all laugh together.   

Additionally, I would be remiss if I did not reiterate that I do not speak for all deaf people, only for myself, as well as acknowledge that Sony's business practices are not wrong, only different.  Sony now proliferates change by creating friendly environments that encourages developers' creativity.   From that mindset we have Journey, a Playstation 3 exclusive that sideswiped multiple award shows and provided an entirely non-verbal co-op experience.  The Playstation 4's timed exclusive The Witness by Braid creator Jonathon Blow focuses on nonverbal gameplay rather than a reliance on audio cues.  Other games such as Dark Souls and Portal 2 offer nonverbal co-op play.  Certainly, other and equally valid options are available on how to evolve gaming.  Personally, in my life experience technology that provides me with more accessibility is not developed and provided at a large scale level without a push from the policy makers.

My current Kinect is literally dusty without being used.  Or is this due to my poor housekeeping?  But it has potential.       

I cannot afford a day one release no matter how sleek the day one Xbox One is but I will save my pennies and bet my dollar that Microsoft will use the Kinect in new and innovative ways because Microsoft is betting their dollars on the technology as well.  The technology that is available now does not meet my needs and I need the console that is reinventing with technology that may let me in.      

Thank you very much for reading, I know that many of us gamers spend much of our internet time scouring for details that we missed from E3.  Have a great week gaming and planning how you will be spending your next gaming dollars this fall.

Do you think that the Kinect or the Eye is promising technology?

What non-game feature do you use most on your console? 

What is your favorite new feature or change from the current generation in the announcements thus far about the next generation consoles?

 

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