Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kinecting in a World of Duty

Kinecting in a World of Duty
I’ve always been a fan of video games and technology.  Anything that would marry the two would be icing on the cake.  Starting out on the NES, I would hook up every accessory available, from Broderbund’s U-Force controller to the Miracle Piano Teaching System.  So naturally, when Microsoft announced they were releasing a product that would be able to track your entire body, I was first in line.

Prior to the launch of Kinect for Xbox 360, I was already trying to get back into shape.  I was using to guide my habits and the Wii to get in shape.  The Wii Fit was a great product for me, but seemed more of an introduction to exercise, versus a substitute for it.  The Wii Fit was where I found my love for Yoga, so no complaints there.  However, I couldn’t wait for the release of the Kinect.  Every video I watched only made me hunger more.

One of the nice things about SparkPeople is the ability to create groups, similar to Facebook.  Knowing how powerful and amazing Kinect would be, I set out to start a fitness group called, “Kinect to Spark”.  I solicited the help of Tema Chipo, who has been an amazing motivator in other video game groups.  At the launch of Kinect in November 2010, we had about eight members.  From that point, we tried everything in the book to drive growth of the group.  And not just growth, but growth while motivating members of the group.

When the Kinect launched, it was evident how transformational it would be in people’s lives.  Our members were finding amazing exercise in everything from Your Shape Fitness Evolved to Dance Central.  Even the game that came bundled with the Kinect, Kinect Adventures, proved to be a fitness challenge in some areas. 

Needless to say, the Kinect sells itself, especially to those that are looking to become more active.  There are days where I just like to go to Best Buy and watch people try out the Kinect display.  I love watching the magic in people’s eyes when they first experience the Kinect.  Usually what happens is, they try out the Kinect for about 20 minutes, call someone over to watch them play, and then they go seek out where it is sold.  It’s hard to explain to people what it does and feels like.  Once they’ve played it, the magic begins.

We certainly had the momentum rolling, coming off of the holiday season.  However, in February, I suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  My parents were in town visiting and we started off the day playing a bit of the Kinect.  From there, we went out to eat and the next thing I remember was having my chest pounded on.  72 shocks and a coma later, I woke up feeling like a train hit me.  To this day, doctors don’t know what caused my Cardiac Arrest.  My heart was clean, but there was some kind of electrical storm that dropped me instantly.

While this momentarily set me back, both in exercise and weight loss, I am thankful for the experience.  While recovering, I became addicted to another technology called OnLive.  Essentially, OnLive is a streaming video game service.  You can think of it as Netflix streaming, but for video games.  I became increasingly involved in the community and even started reaching out to developers and publishers about putting their games onto the service.

Thanks to the connections I was able to make with OnLive, I then had inroads to people working on Kinect games.  Looking to reignite my Kinect team, I started up another site, called Kinect Reviews and Interviews.  Since September, I have been reviewing games, conducting interviews, and hosting contests on the site.  All for the purpose of driving people to our Kinect fitness group.

Today the Kinect fitness group is thriving.  Sure, there is always room for improvement, but we have come a long way.  We currently have a weight loss contest with some nice prizes the members have contributed.  We also have a virtual walk across the country, ways to motivate each other on Xbox Live, a Facebook group, another contest to win Dance Central 2, and many other things to keep each other active and motivated. 

So while we may hit a few snags in the road, such as losing members or PR companies not responding the way I want, there are always rebounds, such as making a new video game industry contact or seeing a member reach a healthy milestone.  These member milestones are actually the reasons I keep driving on.  We’ve had members that have lost over 100 pounds-playing video games.  So while the world of video games may be full of the Call of Duties, I can still find solace in the success of the Kinect for Xbox 360.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Video Game Interview Portfolio - So Far

These last few months have given me a wild ride, one which I never would have expected.  I say it all started with my love for the OnLive Gaming Service and the technology it presented.  I didn't think a lot of people understood what this technology meant for gaming, including developers and publishers of video games.  I would reach out to varous individuals involved in gaming and would try to tell them how amazing streaming video games was.  Never before have we seen On Demand gaming like this.  It started with Twitter, then Facebook, then LinkedIn, and grew to e-mails, phone calls, and more.  I started getting inside scoop that other other people craved.  At that point reached out to me and asked me to write my first article for them.  Combine this with the Kinect Fitness group I was leading and everything started piecing together in some amazing ways. 

So just in the last few months, I have had the opportunity to interview some of the biggest gaming studios in the industry.  There is more to come, but here is my video game interview portfolio so far:

So there you have the interviews I've done so far.  I've gotten better, but I also know there needs to be a bit more polish.  Overall, I feel pretty good with what has happened in just a few months though.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scary Video Games to Play This Halloween (some FREE)

There are several games that you can play to get you in that Halloween mood.  Many of them are FREE this weekend, thanks to OnLive.  (see details of free games here)

One of the scariest games of all time is Amnesia: The Dark Descent.  I am almost willing to bet money that you can't get through the whole game with the lights off and sound up.  Here is the trailer:

The next game I recommend for Halloween is FEAR 3.  It has a single player story, co-op, and multiplayer.  Here is a clip of me playing it on OnLive:

Finally, for the Kinect lovers out there, you should really check out Rise of Nightmares.  Here is a link to my review and below is my video review.  It got a lot of flack for not being like other horror games on Xbox, but I found it great for a Kinect game.  Here's my video review:

A Contest for Dance Central 2

Thanks to the great folks at Harmonix, I'm able to give away two copies of Dance Central 2 to members of my Kinect to Fitness and Health group.  

Check out the details here:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Busy Week for Kinect Reviews

Today is a huge day for the Kinect.  Lots of titles released today and I got a chance to review a few of them already.  Here are the reviews for the following games:

Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster Review
Forza Motorsport 4 Review
Kinectimals Now with Bears! Review

The reason I'm excited about doing these reviews is because in each one, I have a link that directs readers to leave comments at my Xbox Kinect to Fitness and Health group on  The group is definitely growing and people are doing some amazing things.  Every day I am seeing people getting motivated to play their Kinect and they are getting healthier and more active in the process.  That is the true beauty of working out with the Kinect; it is so fun that you don't find it a chore.

There are a few more games that have come out and I am hoping to do reviews for: Just Dance 3, Hulk Hogan's Main Event, Michael Phelps Push the Limit, and Wipeout 2.  Next week's releases include: Twister Mania, PowerUp Heroes, and Minute to Win It.  Plus, there are a whole bunch more games coming out after that.  Exciting times for a Kinect owner!

Thanks to all my readers and supporters.  Together we are on a journey to see more and more people reach their health and fitness goals.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What weighs 9,000 pounds and can walk 3,000 miles?

Tonight has been a busy night.  I've been adding numbers, plotting routes, and writing a review.  Just about in that order too.

As some of you already know, we are kicking off a great weight loss contest in my Kinect fitness group.  If you haven't joined yet, you really should.  Wednesday, Sept 14, 2011 is the last day to join.  Take a picture of your feet on that scale, e-mail it in, and post your weight on this message board:

I'm excited that we are giving away some really cool prizes.  The winner gets a copy of Dance Central 2 and a pedometer valued at near $50.  Second place gets a $25 gift card to GameStop.  And a random name will be drawn from the list of folks completing the challenge for a $30 gift certificate to  Oh, and you don't need to use a Kinect to compete.  What are you waiting for?

So far in the contest, we have nearly 50 people signed up.  The total weight of all people combined is almost 9,000 pounds.  Wow!  I can't wait to see what kind of weight we lose over the next 12 weeks.  And how are we going to lose weight?  Well yes, some of us will be using the awesome Xbox Kinect.  However, the easiest thing to do is walk.  The benefits to walking are so many and walking is something that doesn't require a lot of commitment or money.

So, we'll be walking across the country.  What???  Yes, we'll be doing this virtually though.  From New York City to Redmond, WA.  Check out our first blog post about it:

And finally, I did my first official Kinect review tonight.  If you are into Kinect or kids games, definitely check this review out:

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Game Interviews So Far This Year

So this has been an interesting year for me.  After I got home from the hospital in February, I really started taking a liking to the OnLive service.  This twist has gotten me more connected to the gaming industry in the last few months than my over 20 years of gaming ever has.  Just some very interesting happenings and all of a sudden I'm writing about something I love...gaming.

My first interview was a little rough because I was so new.  It was to feature the game Astro Slug by Bit Barons.  Here is the interview: (Astro Slug)

The next interview was for a much larger game, FEAR 3.  This was my first experience dealing with a huge studio.  Warner Bros was the publisher, who I had to go through, and Day 1 Studios was the developer.  Because I didn't know how many questions to send over and how to phrase them, the interview appeared a little short.  (FEAR 3)

The interviews after started to get a little more meaty.  Not only did I ask about the games, but also about the process of getting them to the OnLive service.  We also found out a little more about what it means to be a publisher, a developer, a distributor, etc.  Here is my interview with the French publisher, Focus Home Interactive (Focus Home)

Recently, OnLive got a lot of good press from the whole GameStop and Deus Ex debacle.  What happened was, OnLive put a free game code in every retail PC copy of Deus Ex.  The free code was for the same game on the OnLive service.  GameStop saw this as a threat and opened up the games, took the code out, trashed the code, and then sold the games as brand new to their customers.  Lots of folks were upset about this and lots of folks were introduced to the OnLive service.  Combine this with OnLive giving out free consoles at PAX Prime and many new players were coming over.  It just happened that I had a nice interview for Deus EX as well: (Deus Ex)

My most recent interview comes from a game that I didn't think I would be into as much as I am.  Tropico 4 rolled out this past week and I am in love.  The game is all about you running a tropical island however you want to run it.  Lots of things take place on this island and it is up to you on how you want to manage it.  The music is great, the visuals are soothing, and the game is addicting.  Here is my interview with the fokls at Kalypso: (Tropico 4)

So I'm having a blast getting to talk to these folks and learning more about the gaming industry.  Look for more articles coming soon.  Tomorrow should be another from the makers of Space Marine.  Later should be ones from Dead Island, Hard Reset, Batman, Lord of the Rings, and much more.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Time to Lose This Weight - Who's Joining Me?

Let's do a little math.  What is 300 minus 3?  How about 295 plus 2?  How about 50 plus 247?

No matter how you do this, you'll get the same number.  That number is my current weight.  That's okay...I'll wait as you pick your jaw up off the floor.

You back now?  Good.  Last year, I ran a 5k and this is what I looked like:

I was feeling great.  I had lost over 40 pounds and ran my first 5k in nearly 20 years.  I was exercising, eating right, and having the time of my life.  I felt on top of the world.  See this picture for proof:

Fast-forward to February 19 of this year.  My family came out to visit us and we were having a blast.  I showed my dad how to play the Kinect and then we went out to eat.  Here is a picture of me and my son at the restaurant:

Just a few minutes after that picture was taken, I died.  Sudden Cardiac Arrest, leading killer.  Not a heart attack.  Nothing was blocked, blood levels were all normal, but my heart went into a dangerous electrical storm.  I was turning purple and cold.  My parents, kids, and wife saw me die in front of them.  Thankfully, this guy was there to start CPR:

Shortly after, they brought the AED in, shocked me and then I was rushed to Milford Hospital, where I would be fighting for my life.  72 shocks later, here is what I looked like (yes, I was in a coma):

Thankfully, God had other plans for me.  Yes, I said God.  When you die, you get your head straightened out.  You also realize the importance of family.  I remember my family there in the ER telling me how much they loved me.  Then I heard the physicians asking them to clear the area as they shocked me again and again.  Those memories don't escape me, I relive them every day.  I'm so glad to be here for my family:

So what happened since then?  Well, lots of things.  The purpose of this particular blog is to talk about my weight gain though.  I'm now the heaviest I've been in my life.  This sucks.  My lower back hurts, I get out of breath, I'm tired, I don't have much self confidence, and it seems I can't even fart without working up a sweat.

What now?  Thankfully I've found  It helped me last time and I'm using it to help me again.  There are some really nice people that have started some contests too.  My friend Jose has started this contest:  My other friend, Tema, has started this contest:  Both contests are giving away a free video game.  The best part about it though, isn't the prize.  It is the connections made during the process.  Each contest has a group of awesome folks, encouraging each other to do better.

So what about you?  Will you join me in this?  I don't care if you like video games or not.  If you don't and you win, just send the prize to some kid in need that would love to play.  If you are looking to have some fun, lose some weight, and get healthy, all while meeting great new people...come join us.

Keep your eyes peeled on this space.  You will be seeing some nice transformations.

Testing this out

I'm just testing this out, to see how it works.