We know different parents have different feelings about gaming. But personally, we don’t think it’s gaming that make kids inactive. Inactivity makes kids inactive. So we like that increasingly more games, especially for older kids are getting families off our butts and bringing us together. (That is, when we’re not out playing soccer or doing gymnastics or pole vaulting.)

That’s why we’ve all been on the edges of our seats, awaiting the launch of Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360, a motion sensor gaming system that lets you have all of the fun without worrying about flinging your controller through your screen.

Both Beth and Liz were lucky enough to try it out over the last few weeks, and while it’s not for every family, there are some super cool things about it that may redefine the future of gaming.

As promised, the Kinect for Xbox 360 is not about your thumbs but your whole body. You stick the device above or below the TV, and it employs cameras, sensors, and microphones to recognize your movements and voice–and then responds to them You even use gestures to point to a menu item and “swipe it” to activate. Very Minority Report!

Move your hands forward to make cars go faster, shift your body forward to move a raft down the river, or simply step on various spots to plug “water leaks” in an aquarium, Twister-style, in the games in Kinect Adventures, which comes free with the system and is appropriate for even younger children. It’s fun once you get the hang of it.

What’s smart is that they’re taking away the ability to “cheat” at yoga or track and field by just moving the controller in your hand faster. With Kinect, your whole body is being tracked, and even in Kinect Sports, your speed has to do with how high your knees get when you run and how fast your pace is.

Dance for Xbox Kinect

Right now the sensor detects two players at a time, but has a party play mode with mini games and battles that allows players to compete against each other. The party play offers an easy way to drop in and drop out of games, which is helpful for parents who don’t want excuses when it’s homework time “right in the middle of a game.”

A few caveats from a mom’s point of view: Kinect is designed for players 3′ 4″ and taller, so little kids can jump around with you while you play, but not actually be tracked themselves. Besides, squirmy preschoolers will have trouble staying in the sensor’s line of sight (and not crowding mommy! Get out of my way kid, I’m winning!). Also–this isn’t all about creating avatars, which is what little kids like about systems like the Wii. While you can indeed style your own avatar and change his nose and add freckles, we haven’t yet figured out how to dress the second player. Plus, Liz’s out-of-shape arms got tired after a while of switching from the blue skirt to the grey one for her three year-old; we’d rather save it for actual game play.

Also–important!–you seriously seriously need space for Kinect. The recommended distance from sensor to player is 6 to 8 feet meaning in Liz’s small NYC apartment, all the couches had to be slid out of the living room, and even then it was a little cramped.

But for the tough critics–a group of 11 year old boys–this game is a winner. Beth’s son and his friends were completely engaged with the games and surprisingly, spent the most time playing Dance Central. Considering that they usually prefer war battles to dance battles, Beth was thrilled as you can imagine.

Of course for real entertainment junkies it’s nice to have access to other entertainment through the Xbox Live membership, like movies, or past episodes of Glee.

Will we want to play Rock Band as air guitar instead of using a guitar controller? Probably not. But touch and movement could very well be the future way we interact with our technology and this is a cool look at how it’s starting. It’s a little buggy in some ways, as early games always are, but if you’ve got older kids and want The Next Cool Thing under the tree in a few months, this is it.

Besides, any technology that gets a bunch of pre-teen boys to challenge their moms to a “dance battle” is already groundbreaking to us.  -Beth + Liz

Kinect for Xbox 360 hits the shelves today!  Find it through our affiliate Amazon.

The Kinect Sensor is $149.99 and comes bundled with the game Kinect Adventures. If you already have an XBox 360, get the Kinect bundle for $299.99. Additional Kinect games are around $46 on Amazon, including Dance Central, Ubisoft Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Kinect Sports.

Thanks to XBox who sent us consoles for purposes of review.

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