Getting ready to game

I made a decision this morning that meant I hunkered down on the exercycle, turned on MTV and proceeded to get a round of morning exercise in. I will be going ahead and getting an XBox One in September so I can play Dance Central Spotlight: Harmonix's new version of its popular Kinect game.

I was extremely disappointed when Harmonix announced in March last year, after releasing three boxed versions and a back catalogue of downloadable songs, that they were canning the franchise. Even if they had decided to end the expensive disc version release, having DLC (downloadable content) kept the game alive and when you've perfected all the songs you already like, essential for continued engagement with the game. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw the announcement on my Facebook feed that they had resurrected Dance Central and are releasing Spotlight in September. And then came the kicker: only on XBox One.

I've hummed and hawed over the last few days about whether a single game should justify a new console purchase, because unlike in my late teens and early twenties, I am no longer able to spend 24 hours solid gaming and my use of the XBox 360 in the lounge is almost exclusively for fitness and dance-related activities.

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I love Dance Central. I enjoy the challenge of perfecting the routines: getting a flawless run then doing it again and again until the only way to improve my score is to tweak the angles of my arms, be conscious of my leg placement, perfect on the timing and programming my muscle memory so that it nails the routine every time. And I enjoy the leaderboard: inching my way up the ranks until I'm in the top 20, then the top 10, railing at how my mostly faceless competitors are managing to improve their score still further when I'm consistently hitting my top range. And then there's the euphoria of actually being number one... in the world (imagine Jeremy Clarkson saying that last bit).

And that's the thing: IN THE WORLD. How many other ways can you compete in your community for top ranking in something global? Technology has made the world smaller and in this microcosm it's certainly the case. I chose at age seventeen that I would not be a professional dancer but I still love to dance and love to perform. And as with anyone who has a craft or a sport, I want to gauge how good I am. And whilst not every amateur dancer in the world plays Dance Central, there are millions of us who do: from the beginner dabbler to the competitively obsessed. In fact, the competition on that global leaderboard is arguably better and more fierce than I might find in Christchurch, New Zealand and the granularity of the Kinect's assessment of my timing and form harder and less forgiving than my old ballet teachers. So, despite my frustration at Harmonix backing Microsoft on this forced upgrade off perfectly functional gaming machines, I will grit my teeth and do it.

Despite my weekend conversation with my other half about having time to make this decision, I can't actually leave it till August or September to decide. Why? I have prep to do.

This is what I know. It will take me about an hour to try each of the ten initial release tracks. I will go for the hardest setting straightaway for maximum points. I will choose the two or three that I will tackle first. It will take at least five run throughs to get muscle memory to take over watching and following the on-screen dancers. From there it may take another five to ten runs to get in the top twenty of the leaderboard. If I want to hit it running, I will need to do this in that first weekend of release. To be match fit I will need to have the stamina to dance about six hours each day of that weekend. That's twelve hours of dancing. It's a marathon, truly.

Cardio fitness is not the only requirement. I will need core strength and flexibility to take on the hardest settings and agility to get the tricky timing. This means losing at least another 3 kilogrammes of weight, getting back into the splits, and having sufficient cardiovascular capacity to do three hours solid of cardio with a one hour break and do over again. All this needs to be achieved in three months or less. Good thing I like having goals and I love a challenge.

This is the future of gaming. You're laughing right? Gamers are traditionally considered to be the couch potatoes, pale-skinned, curtains closed variety. People who can drive a car on screen but can't drive stick on the road. Well, I contest that view obviously... Whilst there are many of those who take on the traditional first-person shooters, flight simulator and racing variety all weekend long, there's a large number of us who are mature adults still enjoying the gaming scene without quite the blinkered obsession of youth.

The progress of technology is such that biometric equipment, such as the Kinect, will lead eventually to immersive gaming such as the holodeck on Star Trek. And whilst you may be able to simulate a virtual Klingon or an Orc coming at you with weapon, the ability to parry a thrust, dodge the strike and jump over obstacles is much harder to simulate. We'll need to clock some serious gym time to compete.

Right: I need to stop typing and get packing. I have a new gym bag to load and a Les Mill Virtual BodyBalance class to get to: splits don't happen by themselves, you know.

LES MILLS® Virtual
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