Dance Central

Tonight we played Dance Central together, while our baby slept blissfully. It’s probably just as well that she’s asleep; she’s much too young to see her father "dancing".

Dance Central is a game for the Xbox 360 that uses the Kinect sensor to track your movements, and then sneers at you when you fail to perfectly mimic the movements of your on screen avatar. It’s basically the Kinect’s killer application, its reason for existence.

It’s a shame, then, that the Kinect isn’t that good at motion detection. Don’t get me wrong, for a consumer electronics device to be as good as it is at measuring motion is pretty impressive, but for fast, complicated movements such as the game demands, it doesn’t feel that it picks things up (or notices sufficiently often when things are wrong). I dance like an injured bear with two left feet, which is to say almost not at all, whereas my wife has years of salsa, and yet often I beat her score. That may be because I’m better trained to mindlessly obey the commands of a computer game, but I’d expect one that was all about physical coordination and rhythm to advantage my wife over me.

Physically, it’s punishing. I’m still recovering from last night’s track session (any time that you lose more than a kilo in one day, you’ve probably been pushing things rather too hard). The fan in our apartment doesn’t pump enough air to make up for one idiot waving their arms in the air like they just don’t care, let alone two. Four songs in (and one of those being the Macarena) we had to stop. I was soaked in sweat and ready to keel over. My wife was … Well, women glow, right? They don’t perspire, they’re too delicate creatures for that sort of thing. So she glowed, and I shook like a ragged horse, and we had to sit down until we got our breath back.

I’m not sure if it makes that much real difference: perhaps I should play Dance Central every day, do no other exercise, and see if my 5k times improve. Or if I get good at dancing to Ice Ice Baby. Either achievement has equal weight in our society.

One positive thing to say about Dance Central is that unlike most computer games, you have to stand up to play it. I’ve lost track of the hours wasted, slumped on one sofa or another, fighting imaginary foes online. Standing up while playing videogames either limits the time you can play, because you get worn out, or at least means you’re doing something for your legs. In parallel, after my month and a half sitting on an exercise ball all day at work, I think I’ll be sitting on a chair for half the day going forward, at least until I think I’m really strong enough to endure that. Though again, perhaps a crash course in Dance Central would equip me with the ability to sit on an exercise ball all day, every day.

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