On Potential and Possibilities

I’ve made it very clear that I am not on board for the motion revolution. Wii never grabbed me, Kinect (formerly Project Natal) does not compel me, and Move does not move me. As a consumer, it’s not for me. But I’m okay with that. I really am. As a gamer, as someone who is looked to for slightly grander opinions on the industry, I am extremely hopeful. On a recent podcast I stated that I believe this technology, as a whole, could lead to the true “next generation of gaming.” It is impossible to ignore the potential in each of these devices. And yet it is that word, potential, that catches a snag. Are we willing to be patient for theoretical potential to become realized? Are we willing to invest time, money, and space upfront for potential months or (potentially) years from now? Didn’t we already get caught up in this same song and dance when Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3 to the world four years ago?

Be sure to stretch and clear out any valuables before continuing.

To be fair, this topic was initially put forth by Talking About Games’ Community Manager and Podcast Overlord JVB on an episode of the Post Game Report. His position in the discussion, while a bit of devil’s advocacy, had some merit to it: Are the same people that criticize the PlayStation 3’s apparent lack of success giving a free pass to Kinect over so-called potential? There has been a lot of talk about the potential of Kinect as a legitimate source of gaming entertainment for every gamer out there, enthusiast and less enthused. But there was also a lot of talk about the potential for the PlayStation 3 leading up to its own launch in 2006. Now, four years later, there is still debate about whether Sony has delivered on their promises. Some have argued that the quality and quantity of stellar games on the PlayStation 3 have not met the staggering expectations the universe put on then-CEO Ken Kutaragi’s shoulders. I’ll let you decide if the PlayStation 3 is worth your money.

But the real question is: Are the same people that were (or still are) hypercritical of the PlayStation 3 after falling victim to the Siren’s Song of Potential walking the exact same path with Kinect? The problem with this back and forth is that both fun and value are subjective. The Madden franchise lost me as a fan in 2004. I just stopped caring about it. But there are still plenty of people that will mysteriously become ill on a certain Tuesday in the middle of August when the next game is released. That’s their prerogative. And thus, when we look to analyze the success or failure of Kinect in six months or a year from its debut, please remember that your opinions are just that.

When we look at Kinect and what it will bring us immediately and what it will bring us in the future, will we have the same tolerances and wishful thinking or will the hand that fed us something truly unique have bite marks all over it? If you are going to take a wait and see approach with Kinect, then be prepared to wait and see. While developers have had access to this technology for some time now, I don’t think most of them really know what to do with it yet. Most of the first generation of software resembles polished proofs of concept while the real fun will come out in the second wave of Kinect-based gaming. I could remind you that “good things come to those who wait,” but you already know that, right? I’m not saying that gamers are impatient, but the demand for immediate satisfaction can sometimes be a bit much. Patience, after all, is a virtue.

If you really want my opinion, here you go. Yes, we all got caught up in the hype of the PlayStation 3. No, it has not cured cancer (or diabetes) yet. Yes, there are a lot of great games, regardless of personal preference, available exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Yes, Sony has a long way to go. And yes, I recognize the current capabilities of this device and believe that I don’t have to keep putting off the so-called potential of the system. It is realizing its potential right now. I have similar hopes for both Kinect and Move, and as a so-called gaming enthusiast I am willing to wait and see what materializes. I didn’t need my PlayStation 3 to do everything out of the box when it came to the store shelves and I don’t expect Kinect to do everything we were promised at this or last year’s E3. Honestly, I expect to be let down by a few broken promises before Kinect’s time has passed, but I am willing to be patient to find out.

If you are hypercritical of what Sony hasn’t done, you stand on very shaky ground if you are willing to give Kinect enough space and opportunity to succeed. Don’t back down from your convictions just because you can wave your arms and command your Xbox 360 from your couch. I’m willing to listen to an argument supporting the potential of Kinect, but not from someone that won’t stand behind their belief in the potential of the PlayStation 3. Anyone that has flip-flopped on Sony for the negative is someone with an opinion that is not worth my time. Grow a backbone. Have some convictions. Believe in something, even if it is only about a video game. It’s okay to believe that the PlayStation 3 is a worthwhile gaming machine just as much as it’s okay to think that Kinect might be the next big thing. Just don’t back down from your opinions because everyone else disagrees with you. Are people quick to dismiss the PlayStation 3 over unrealized potential? Sadly, yes. But those same people better be prepared to assume the role of hypocrite if they are just as quick to give Kinect room to grow. In my book, it’s all or nothing.

This post is also hosted on Talking About Games. They are good people.

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