Feature Article
Track and Field: A Perfect Match for Kinect/Move?

Making crazy faces, shouting at the screen and watching your virtual athlete run down the track – all of these were fixtures of Track and Field back in the mid-'80s. Amusingly enough, motion controls of today pretty much replicate the experience of looking ridiculous while miming the act of playing sports, but now we get to do it with more arm-flailing and head-faking. Seeing as motion-based titles are here to stay for the foreseeable future, I'd like a little nostalgia to go along with it, especially in our soon to be olympics crazed country.

In that spirit, I'm pretty sure that something like Track and Field — or even many of the events found in its sequel, Track and Field II — could provide some amusement in the motion-based arena. Admittedly, many motion-based titles have already hit various summer sports — including swimming, sprinting and archery — but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of events for us to excel in while we flail our arms. Hell, it could even have quite a bit of charm if developers picked the weirder events.

The joy of playing games like Track and Field partially resulted from getting good at the events, but a large part of it also came from watching your virtual athlete flop around and fail in a blaze of glory. Developers of a modern Track and Field would probably do well to make it more of a party game than an actual mimic of real life. Sure, there could be room for some mastery and creativity, but the ability to look crazy while doing these events is what would be appealing.

The Obvious Choices

The events that make the most sense for a motion-based game, and that have already been mimicked quite a bit, are anything involving running and jumping. The Kinect's full-body tracking and the Move's controller-tracking could easily handle events such as the 100m dash or 110m hurdles, and even the long jump or triple jump would work well considering both motion control configurations could measure how far you are off of the ground when you jump. I'm imagining some superimposed images from the camera of you jumping over a hurdle or crossing the finish line — some good augmented reality stuff.

The trick of making events like these “fun” to all comers would be in finding some way of introducing a fun yet accessible control scheme. Harkening back to the goofy Power Pad on the NES and each user hammering their feet on the ground to run and jump, there could be some fun one-on-one play to be had if each user had to find a specific cadence with his feet or arms. It wouldn't be fun to just reward the user who could run in place the fastest; it would be more amusing to find some slightly artificial movement of your body in order to make it silly and fun for everyone. I'm still picturing broken noses from wayward elbows, but playing Track and Field with an injury is a badge of pride, as many children of the '80s can attest with their thumbs.

Taking It Further

How about the hammer throw and spinning around in your living room with a move controller? Sounds pretty awesome to me. Even better, require that the user has to grunt loudly when they release the hammer on Kinect, fully integrating the experience. In fact, that would probably be the only way release the hammer on the Kinect, with its lack of buttons and all. Of course, the amount of spins should probably be limited to avoid total disaster at alcohol-fuelled parties... or you could add more spins and see what happens.

The Move could have some great clay pigeon shooting as well, with the user getting to yell “Pull!” every time a disc is launched. The Move's fidelity would actually make an event like this fairly doable, with even multiple targets able to be hit in quick succession. Also, this would probably be as close to Duck Hunt as we'll get in the modern era of videogames.

I'm also imagining a pretty great pole vault event on either the Kinect or Move. Users could run at their TV with a virtual or actual “pole” (Move) in their hands and plunge it downward at the right time. You could even add in some crazy back-arcing movements for actually getting over the bar at the top. Success would be judged on how fast your approach was, where the pole was placed and how accurately you performed the motion at the top of the bar. The stupider people look when doing these sorts of things goes a long way to adding a “party” quality to it.

Making Things Weird

Track and Field II definitely had plenty of events that would translate over as goofy fun on the Kinect or Move. Take canoeing, for example, where a user could actually perform the event from a seated position, alternating their hands as if they were using a canoe paddle. It could also account for the lean of your shoulders and bank down the rapids accordingly. I'm picturing four people on the ground leaning into each other, creating an experience like “corners” that people used to play in their cars when they were on long trips.

Or how about fencing or taekwondo? The Move would be perfectly suited for either, with users thrusting their controllers at on-screen opponents. The Move's fidelity would allow for the precise hitting of targets on a body, and there could be a simple blocking and attacking method like in the NES version, making the game more about timing rather than sheer skill or accuracy. Taekwondo would allow for more than motion-based boxing games have allowed, with kicks and sweeps being featured. I assume someone would likely roundhouse their TV right off the wall mount, but maybe this sort of event could just embrace the wackiness of motion-controls and allow you to flail your limbs wildly — volume not accuracy.

If they wanted to go really wacky, the developers could even include the arm wrestling event, with two players fighting over a single move controller or some such silliness. More likely, though, it would involve both users staring at the screen, each with their own Move controller, yelling and making faces. Whoever contorts their face and shouts the most wins. It would likely result in a few people blowing a capillary, but the visual comedy would probably be worth it.

Final Thoughts

The real way to “bring back” a game like this to the motion-control era is be as weird as possible. Sure, there are certain realities to how the game would have to behave given the nature of the control inputs, but adding some really crazy presentation and strange events would go a long way in making a game like this stand out from the usual suspects. By using all that the motion controllers have to offer, warts and all, and emphasizing the multiplayer and “party” aspects of the old games, a Track and Field could actually provide some wacky fun.

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