Archive for January 3, 2009

Messing with ‘Home’: Social Experiment, or Us Being Jerks? Part 1

OK, so Sony’s Home launched some time ago, and gamers, for the most part, are unimpressed.  The idea of a Second Life-esque program for home consoles sounds intriguing, but apparently wasn’t executed well.  I don’t have a PS3, so I didn’t get a chance to see what the fuss was all about until recently.  The other day, I was at a friend’s place just hanging out and playing some Resistance: Fall of Man 2.  After about half an hour or so of online deathmatch and co-op, my friend, let’s call him Bobby, decides to show us Home.  Around the same time, another one of our friends, let’s call this one Sean, arrives.  He’s not a video gamer, so he’s less than thrilled of the prospect of sitting in front of a TV for a few hours, but Sean is there to hang out, seeing how I was visiting while on vacation and I would be leaving in a few weeks.

So Bobby takes us on a tour of Home, showing us the Central Plaza, Movie Theatre, Mall, and his Personal Space (a virtual apartment for those uninitiated with Home).  Needless to say, I was unimpressed.  The funniest thing Bobby did with his avatar was join a line of other avatars doing the running man.  It was funny to see, but the humor wore off after about 30 seconds.  The thing about home is that, for all the stuff Sony says you can do, it’s boring to actually do them.  The movie theatre is playing the teaser trailer for Astro Boy on loop, the music selection for the plaza sucks, and most of the things in the Mall either isn’t free or really stupid.

Bobby then gets the idea to mess with people.  “What do you mean?” we ask.  He showed us what he meant.  First, he would walk his avatar up to two other avatars who were in conversation and just start dancing between them.  It was hilarious since the other people were getting upset.  So, for the next 20 or so minutes, Bobby’s going around and dancing, insulting random people, and just plain being a jerk.  And it was funny.  What I also thought was funny was the observation that the female avatars were getting more attention than their male counterparts.  Meaning, there would be a group of dudes surrounding this one girl, trying to talk to her.  By contrast, we never saw a group of girls surrounding a guy and trying to talk to him.  Basically, what we saw was a whole mess of lonely, basement-dwelling video game geeks trying to mack on what they perceive to be an attractive female counterpart.

A lightbulb goes off in Sean’s head: Let’s try and pick up one of these poor saps.

Bobby changes his avatar from a guy to a female (the same avatar he modeled after his real-life girlfriend), then proceeds to wander around the Central Plaza, trying to talk to guys.  It wasn’t hard to get a guy to talk to you, what was difficult was to truly get them interested in you.  Bobby goes into an area of the Plaza where there are about a dozen or so others just standing around and talking or dancing.  We see this other girl standing next to this guy; they weren’t talking or anything, they just happen to be standing next to each other.  Bobby goes up and basically triest to start some kind of verbal fight between his female avatar and the other female avatar (there is not way to physically fight with someone else within Home, arguments usually result in people typing insults to each other).  By now, we’re all throwing suggestions at Bobby, telling him what to see to this other girl.  What the argument turned into looked something like the following:

Bobby: Hey, b!tch, step away from my man.

Other Girl: Um… are you talking to me?

Bobby: Yeah, I am.  You better step off.

Other Girl: Why you all up in my grill?  I ain’t with this dude.

Now, here’s where things get a bit interesting.  The guy that just happens to be standing next to this girl starts talking to us.  We’ll call him LonelyKid.  And so the conversation continues:

LonelyKid: Are you guys talking about me?

Bobby: Yes.

Other Girl: You’re ****ing crazy.

Bobby: He’s mine!

Now, we’re focused solely on LonelyKid.  Bobby starts dancing with him and doing what he can to strike up a conversation.  By now, we’re all curious to see where we can take this.  We decide to spend some one-on-one time with this guy.  Bobby tells LonelyKid to follow him and then starts walking away.  He moves the camera so it’s facing the front of our female avatar while allowing us to see behind ‘her’.  We see LonelyKid standing there, not movie, and we all say, “Damn, he’s not following us.”  We wait for a few more seconds.  I noticed that by now, we’re all on the edge of our seats, wondering if this little experiment is going to work.

Suddenly, he turns and starts following.  We erupt into applause.

Bobby leads LonelyKid to a bench where no one is sitting and we invite him to sit.  We start getting into a conversation with him, trying to get to know him.  Unfortunately, random people start wondering into our area.  Usually it’s just passersby, but sometimes we get some annoying person that’s dancing in front of us (which makes us realize how annoying we were when Bobby made his avatar dance in front of others).  We make some serious headway when we finally get to the question of names.  Real names.  I won’t mention what LonelyKid’s real name is (since it’s not necassary), but we did make up a name for our virtual girl: Justine.  Then, we pop the question: “Do you want to come back to my place?”  LonelyKid says he would, so we pretend to be all helpless and not know who to do an invite.  Eventually, the invite is sent; all that’s left to do it have Bobby’s avatar go back to his apartment and wait for him.

The experiment continues in the next post…

(the images aren’t from our particular play session, they’re just there to offer some kind of visual reference)

January 3, 2009 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

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