Lately, Ethan refuses to allow the family to play a Wii or PS2 game in peace. Instead of running away as seen in my first blog post, Parenting with Avatars, he now has enough strength to engage the girls in full combat. He clings to my leg as I try to race down Kyra on the Wii Active Sports Obstacle Course. He tackles Kyra and tries to yank the Wii controller out of her death grip.
If I strap the nunchuk onto his leg and teach him what buttons to push on the controller, he gets stage fright. He’s loving his moment in the spotlight, but he has no idea what to do.
Mostly, he throws such a ruckus that we give up our game. I guess I would too if everyone was having fun, except me.
The solution emerged unexpectantly we hile we helped my sister-in-law Alice get married this past weekend in Washington, D.C. One evening as I put finishing touches on Alice’s wedding program, laughter erupted in the next room. The hardwood floor beneath my feet quaked from a stampede of little feet. I could hear my nephews, nine-year-old Matthew and seven-year-old Jason, chanting, “Go Kyra. Go Ethan.”
Their mother, my sister-in-law Kay, handed me a beer and said, “You’ve got to check this out!”
I was determined to print Alice’s program that night, so I kept saying, “Okay, I’ll be right there.” Finally, Thomas grabbed me by the shoulders and led me away from the laptop, across the kitchen, to the living room where Kyra, Ethan, Jason, and Matthew twisted right and left on the balls of their feet in front of a stage of avatars. It looked like the “walk it out” hip-hop move I had tried to master on the Wii Michael Jackson The Experience, except they had no controllers in their hands.
Kay pointed at the lead dancer, a glamorous red head decked out in a short body hugging dress and gladiator boots, and said, “Kyra picked out that avatar all by herself. I don’t even know how to do that yet.”
“Mommee, look!” Kyra squealed in delight. “I picked a princess.” Stunned, I looked at Thomas and he raised his eyebrows. He had been trying to get her interested in girly stuff from the day she was born. They’ve had intense negotiations where he would ask, “Do you love Daddy?” If her answer was “No” then he would say, “Fine, I’ll get you Princess Jasmine for your birthday.” She’d start crying and saying, “No, don’t say Princess. I want cars and trains only!” He’d tease her with “How about Princess Aurora? Cinderella? Mulan?” She’d throw her arms around him in a state of panic and repeat, “I love you” over and over until he stopped saying her most hated word.
While Kay, Alice, Thomas, and I danced with the kids, I studied this phenomenon: Kinect, a next generation gaming experience that could not only entertain and educate kids spanning two years of age to fifty but also keep them active and inspire confidence to venture beyond their comfort zone.
In seconds, it was clear that everybody was having fun and nobody was getting left out. In minutes, the whole extended family sweated a full workout. In days, I appreciated not having to hunt for missing controllers or buy new ones because the kids got them too sticky. In a week, we had mastered complicated dance moves with Dance Central and with Kinect Adventures! water rafted some of the world’s steepest rapids.
I don’t know how I missed the hype on this controller-free, battery-free, cable-free, motion-sensing, body and voice tracking gadget that rolled out in November 2010. Priced around $150, Kinect seemed affordable enough. Only you also have to own the Xbox to make it work, so now you’re talking about a total of at least $300. And that doesn’t include the cost of the games and the fact that I already owned the Wii and PS2. So, nope, I wasn’t going to purchase the Kinect anytime soon.
But the educational possibilities of this device is certainly mouthwatering. Microsoft announced in December that soon Windows PCs would feature Kinect technology. I couldn’t wait for a Kinect tutor. Virtual futuristic learning for my kids. And for me (shh, don’t tell anyone), designing my own Superhero suit in Tony Stark style.
If you own Kinect, here are some suggestions from Kinect and Your Kids: What Works, What Won’t:
- Mount the Kinect camera box above your TV, as high as 6 feet if possible.
- Manually adjust the camera to tilt down a bit.
- Demarcate the play area somehow to avoid injuries.
If you don’t, does this gaming technology sound appealing?