Watch your language in the living room: Kinect to punish gamers for potty mouths

NBA 2K13 screenshot

Along with making shooters harder to control and stealing processor cycles from your hardware, the Kinect is now about to act as your living-room schoolmarm, punishing you for naughty words. ESPN reports that NBA 2K13, the next title in the venerable basketball franchise, will use the Kinect to assign technical fouls if the player swears after a referee’s call.

According to Kotaku reporter Owen Good, soccer game FIFA 13 considered a similar penalty for swearing, but soccer’s more serious penalties made it too easy for Kinect’s untrustworthy speech detection to cost a player the whole shooting match. Of course, a malicious roommate could still mess with you by yelling obscenity in the background while you play. The Kinect seems unlikely to tell the difference between the player and living-room hecklers, perhaps giving the game even greater authenticity as it sparks a riot in your very own home!

The Kinect will also be used for calling plays and subbing in specific players, although there are no hands-on reports as yet for how well this function works. In its brief lifespan, the Kinect has developed a reputation for introducing features that sound immersive and fun in theory, but prove laggy and sometimes game-breaking in practice. NBA 2K13 seems to be sensibly restricting Kinect functionality to aspects of the game that won’t be made worse by delays, and might even make the game feel a little more real. Having to hold your tongue through purple-faced rage after the ref makes a questionable call is a part of the basketball experience, so it’s neat to have it show up in the simulation.

John Riccitiello, CEO of sports-game juggernaut EA, has said that Kinect controls are “still too imprecise for me,” which may be why EA has mostly kept Kinect controls optional in its games, rather than building game play around the peripheral. So far, the best Kinect experiences have come mostly from the hacking community rather than anyone with an official Xbox dev kit, so NBA 2K13 deserves credit for adding Kinect implementation that seems less like the product of focus-group testing and more something a circuit-bending kid would think was funny.

Voice commands have become a popular use of Kinect, showing up even in massively successful franchises like Mass Effect and Skyrim. But of course, there’s no reason Kinect has to be receiving voice commands when the Xbox 360 comes with a perfectly good voice mic! Years before the Kinect was in stores, Ubisoft’s real-time strategy game Tom Clancy’s Endwar implemented fun and dependable voice control through the regular Xbox Live headset, and it worked promptly and effectively, with a rather shocking dependability to its command recognition. The fact that the Kinect is increasingly being used to do something that was entirely possible from day one of the Xbox 360’s availability is to the peripheral’s shame, not its credit, like praising a new graphics card for how well it runs Quake.

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