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.

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