Do you have space for Kinect?

With Microsoft’s “game changer” now available nationwide, city-dwelling nerds like myself are more self-conscious than ever about having a small apartment.

How will we make room for the latest add-on?

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To help find and answer that question – and learn about Kinect along the way – here’s a New Yorker’s thoughts on how to conserve space, keep quiet and still have fun with your new Kinect – or games in general – in a studio apartment the size of a Camry.

Warning: For those living in sprawling, sumptuous suburban palaces, what you’re about to read will seem absurd, deranged and obsessive. For empathy’s sake, take a moment to imagine living in your walk-in closet. Add a toilet, sink and dead rat and you’ve approximated a Manhattan studio apartment.

Space is an urbanite’s most valuable commodity.

In Harlem, the average rental price of a studio apartment is $1,342. In Tribeca, $4,258. By choosing to live in the greatest city on Earth, we tacitly agree to be broke and cramped. Since we have so little space and spend so much money, what is available must be put to best use.

The recent trend in motion gaming – Nintendo Wii, PlayStation Move – has been an obstacle for us apartment gamers. Our hobby made so much sense before, back when traditional games required a couch and a controller. That was it. Suddenly, we’re expected to surrender our precious space for 1:1 bowling.

And now Microsoft drops the motion gaming bomb, Kinect. You no longer need a 6″ controller to play games – just 8 sq. ft. of space.

We’re gamers. We solve problems for fun (think Tetris!). We can make this work.

Basic Tips for “Spacious” Urban Living

Closets, walls, and especially ceilings are all places to store things. Using them fully should free up the floor for gaming – and, you know, day to day living.

Buy collapsible or retractable furniture when possible. Foldaway furniture has become increasingly popular over the last decade thanks to apartment-friendly furniture stores like CB2 and IKEA.

Two of the biggest space-hogs in an apartment are dining tables and beds. Consider futons and transitional drop-leaf tables.

And don’t forget to look up. The ceiling is generally the most underused space in the home. If you live in New York or another older city, you probably have a lofted ceiling perfect for storage. Ceiling storage is easy to install and though it may be an eye sore at first, can be concealed with ceiling drapes. Or don’t conceal it, and use the floating storage to show off your book collection.

Okay. Your apartment is cleaned up. Every nook and cranny is put to great use. Now what?

Map Out the Playing Space

Remember, to operate properly, Kinect requires 6 to 8 feet of space between its sensor bar and the player. Before doing anything else, measure eight feet from the front of your television.

If your tape measure hits the opposing wall before reaching eight feet you have a tough decision to make: Reorganize the room around your hobby or take a deep breath and accept that Kinect isn’t for you.

I suspect the majority reading will this have 8 feet between their television and the far wall, but the path might be obstructed by a coffee table or couch. This is my problem.

My room’s current layout doesn’t provide the necessary 8 feet of clear space thanks to an ugly ottoman and a love seat. My girlfriend, however, likes this layout. And to be fair, so do I. It has a pleasant feng shui, if you will. (The ugly ottoman adds charm.)

Thus, we concluded we need a default living room layout and a “Kinect living room” layout. You read me right: We designed an alternate “Kinect living room.”

To accomplish this, we’ve planned an easy way to regularly rearrange the furniture. If it’s a hassle to make room for Kinect, we’re less likely to do so.

Create a Mobile Living Room

Don’t throw out your back rearranging the room a half dozen times. Instead, do the heavy lifting on paper. Measure out the dimensions of your room and furniture, then draw the room to scale onto a sheet of graph paper – for smaller rooms, I recommend a ratio of one square on the graph paper per square foot in the room.

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The finished drawing should look like a blocky bird’s eye view of the room.

On a separate sheet of graph paper, draw the furniture’s dimensions to the same scale and then, with scissors, cut it out.

Now, moving the graph-paper-furniture around the bird’s eye view of your room, experiment with arrangements to find the best living room layout that also provides the required 8 feet of unobstructed space.

Time to move the furniture. Again, it’s essential that transitioning between your normal room layout and your Kinect layout be effortless.

One option is to put the furniture on wheels. It works in offices; why shouldn’t it work at home? Casters, small wheels that can be mounted to the furniture’s base or legs, are your best option.

Two things about casters: buy heavy duty and be sure they have brakes. You don’t want your couch rolling away while you’re feeding your Kinectimals.

Hopefully, you now have found the “Kinect” and “Regular” flavors for your living room and a simple way to alternate between them.

Keep it Down

You’re Kinected, great job. But all this bopping around the room is causing so much noise that you can hardly hear the television. Your instinct is to turn up the volume, but loud noise will tick off the neighbors, making this a temporary solution.

Now what?

A well-known fact about the speakers included in TV sets: They suck. To enjoy the full range of sound, you have to pump them louder than you would stand-alone speakers. This is why the codger next door is always asking you to turn down the games with the booms and the bangs and the whatnots.

Of course you could acquire stand-alone speakers. A home theatre in a box can be purchased for cheaper than ever before and their sound is more than serviceable. But cheaper doesn’t mean these things are cheap; they can still run you half a grand. And say you do buy the speakers: Suddenly the living room feels crowded, again.

Another option is the gaming headset. Not the most ideal choice for Kinecting or the most glamorous, but a headset is cheaper than surround sound, smaller than a receiver and quieter than a baby’s belch. And as someone who cohabitates in close quarters, I appreciate having them on hand, Kinect or no Kinect.

Sound: check. Space: check. Storage: check. What’s left?

Apply the Final Touches

Buy a rug. Most New York apartment buildings require tenants to cover a high percentage of the floor with carpet or rugs and most tenants ignore this obligation. Lest you want the folks below banging on their ceiling with a broom, threatening to call the cops, you really should cover the hardwood/tile floor. This will dampen the sound, please the neighbors and even do your knees some good.

Ensure the room is adequately lit. For Kinect, light is like Goldilocks’ porridge. You can’t have light shining directly into the sensor, but you can’t play in the dark either. You want it just right. Depending on where you fall on this spectrum, drapes or lamps might be a worthy investment.

Invite your friends to play. Listen, after all this work, you sure as hell better show off the shiny new technology.

And you’re done! If things went well, the small apartment has been optimized for Kinect. Take a deep breath, sit down on the couch (remember where you put it, check the brakes) and if you’re of age, crack a beer. You deserve it.

Chris Plante is a freelance writer living in New York City. Learn more about his life, career and haunted apartment at his website, ctplante.com.

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