“Home” for the PlayStation 3 is essentially Sony’s version of Second Life. Home is a pseudo “virtual reality” environment that allows PS3 owners to create a unique avatar, walk around virtual “places”, and interact with fellow PS3 owners.
Over the past 25 years, keyboards and mice have become the defacto interface devices for computers. With a mouse, computer users are able to select and control programs by pointing and clicking; additionally, through the use of a keyboard, computer users are able to input information by typing. A long existing dream, however, is that there must be a better way to maneuver throughout these virtual worlds we’ve created. We’ve all seen the movie clips where hi-tech hackers slip on their virtual reality gloves and “sort” through virtual file cabinets and folders, looking through virtual documents. In reality, these systems never seem to work as well or efficiently as a simple keyboard and mouse. Using Doom to kill network processes may be entertaining, but it’s certainly not as quick as simply terminating them manually.
Home for the PS3 is an interface of sorts. Through Home, PS3 owners can wander around and talk to people, display their gaming achievements, buy things, hang out with other online people, and so on. Plus it’s free, which was enough to get me to try it out.
Upon selecting Home from the PS3′s media bar, I was warned that the program was about to reserve 3 gig of space on my launch-PS3′s 60 gig hard drive. After downloading and installing the essentials, I was ready to begin my virtual adventure. Almost.
First, I had to create and later customize my avatar. In virtual worlds you can be anybody you want to be, but I must be boring because I typically make my avatars look like me. I picked a body style that looked similar to time (read: fat) and made a few quick choices. Once that was finished, Home let me customize everything — and I mean, everything — about my avatar. I spent five minutes just trying to get my eyebrows to look right. You can move them closer together, further apart, raise them, lower them, make them thinner or bushier, change their color … I mean, really, you could probably spend a solid week obsessing about the details of your avatar. Whether your feet are big, your chin protrudes, or your ears hang low (and wobble to and fro) you can probably make your avatar resemble yourself.
Well, almost. I decided my avatar should wear a baseball cap so I went to pick one and there’s only one you can have for free. You can buy other ones in the virtual mall. In case you didn’t catch that, let me spell it out for you, real slow-like: you can take your virtual person down to the virtual mall and buy a virtual hat … with real money. Got it.
After adorning my virtual-self with all the best free threads available, I was transported to my virtual apartment. Although my apartment has a wonderful view of virtual land, it was pretty sparse in the furniture department. I quickly found the furniture menu and found that everything from virtual lamps to virtual chairs cost real menu. I decided my avatar was a minimalist and didn’t need any more furniture. From what I have read, you can invite other virtual people to come hang out at your virtual pad, but without any virtual snacks to serve (or virtual friends to invite, for that matter) I decided to pass.
One sweet suite.
I got bored of hanging around my crappy house by myself (I can do that in real life) so I decided to follow the prompts and go exploring. My first choice was The Plaza, which seemed like a good place to meet people. I clicked a button on the controller and was whisked away to the Plaza … and by “whisked away” I mean I was prompted to download 20 meg of information. I said yes, waited for the download (it was relatively quick) and then ended up in the Plaza.
Much like any plaza you might see in America, I was greeted by tons of people dancing. I mean, seriously — everybody in Plaza-land just stands around doing either the Running Man or the Robot. By playing with the controller I figured out how perform most of the common actions (there are 20 or so dance moves to choose from!) as well as several text messages you can send, the most helpful of which for me was, “I do not have a keyboard.” Very quickly I realized there are two types of people hanging out on Home — those with keyboards, and those without. Those “with” chat effortlessly with one another, while those “without” type like your grandpa text messages. By the time I was able to hunt-and-peck out a complete sentence with the PS3′s controller, the conversation had usually switched topics. For what it’s worth I got better as time went by, but I would never describe my skills as “proficient,” and I very quickly had to adopt “leet-speak” just to be able to keep up (“wats ur nam”).
So, since this is a social gathering, I moved over to a group of dudes all doing the Running Man and started dancing myself. One guy said he liked BBQ. Another one kept asking what time it was. I kept trying to answer him but by the time I had pecked out the answer, the clock had changed. So, I just kept dancing. Soon our dance party was interrupted by a terrorist, or at least a virtual one. This guy had changed his hair to bright pink and made it look like a turbin. “Bow down, infidels!” he yelled repeatedly. I was going to but I couldn’t find the “Bow” gesture so I just kept dancing. Pretty soon he started dancing, too. World peace through virtual worlds — gotta love it.
Everybody dance now.
I found exactly three girls in the virtual plaza. When I said “Hi” to one she said, “Get lost n00b” and disappeared. The other two (who were dancing together) turned out to be guys in disguise. I have had both of those things happen to me in real life as well so I would give PS3 5/5 for real world accuracy.
Pretty soon I got tired of dancing so I decided to virtually hop to the bowling alley (Now Downloading another 20 Meg … Please Wait.)
I arrived at the Bowling Alley and the first thing I noticed was not as many people were dancing, so I liked it already. In the Bowling Alley I found bowling lanes. When I went to try and bowl, they were all full. At this point I was starting to wonder what the advantage of having virtual bowling lanes were if you can’t just generate more? Where is the gesture button for throwing a virtual temper tantrum? I was about to leave when I found the arcade. Inside the virtual arcade are virtual arcade games, none of which you’ve ever heard of. Most of those were taken (apparently only one person at a time can play them). Sigh. The two that were available were the same game (Icebreaker), which sucked. I was hoping to find the same demos that are on the PS3 network or at least Pac-Man or Pong or something. No dice.
I never tried visiting the actual mall; I couldn’t see paying real money for a different colored hat or shoes. Maybe a better wardrobe would have made the experience more fun or something. After all was said and done, I wish I had spent the two hour time period playing Pac-Man instead.