There’s no way to watch that video, Microsoft’s ‘product vision’ for their new Natal system for the Xbox 360, and not be sort of excited. This is the fucking future, man! But then, after being excited I began to feel something else…

Exhausted.

Look, the idea of playing video games using just your body is awesome. It’s science fiction. But it’s also defeating the whole purpose of playing video games. Watching that kid leap back and forth while playing the skateboarding game almost made me want to take a nap, for the love of god. That’s a lot of effort, and if there’s one thing we learned from the Nintendo Wii (which sits gathering dust in my closet right now) it’s that nobody wants to expend that much energy when playing video games. In fact the real beauty of video games is the way they allow me to sit on my couch, eat junk food, drink beer, be comfortable and yet also shoot zombies, fly spaceships, win Super Bowls, etc.

And beyond that – imagine if you lived on the second floor of an apartment building. I bet your neighbors would love hearing you fucking executing ollies all night, huh? I live on the first floor of an apartment building but I bet that the sound of my 200 pounds of bulk crashing to the floor every time I leapt up would make my neighbors think the big one was coming.


There are other elements of Natal that are cool – the voice and facial recognition, for instance, and controllerless navigation is obviously the tits. But think about what that means – if the Natal is recognizing your face or scanning your skateboard, it’s taking your picture. And when you sit down in your underwear to play Call of Duty 6, it’s filming your pasty white legs… and who knows what else. You like having that being recorded on your internet-connected video game system that sends messages back and forth between home base without ever asking you for permission? Not to get all dystopian on you, but could the FBI force Microsoft to compare Natal user’s faces to criminal databases?

And what about disabled people? I’m sure that someone at Microsoft must have considered this, but I would imagine there’s a large group of young people in wheelchairs or otherwise disabled who enjoy video games as a way to take part in activities usually denied them. And now they’re being denied all over again (the Natal is almost certainly an optional controller system, so I imagine all games will also be able to be used with the standard controller… but I also bet that if Natal takes off, less care will be put into decent controls).

I like the idea of Microsoft taking its Surface interface and bringing elements of it to the Xbox. I’m excited about it. But I feel like after two weeks of fun the shine of actually jumping when you want your guy on screen to jump will really wear off, and everybody will be back to mashing buttons.