„PlayStation Home gives you a neutral space where you can really get to know someone. Even in the real world now if you’re a gamer and you want to get to know other gamers, there really is nowhere left to go.“
[Sony PlayStation Home Director Jack Buser]
I am not a gamer or at least I was never a gamer before. Although I am having fun in Second Life, the 3D virtual world built by its own residents, I see my time in-world mostly as part of my normal work load, because I am a Metaverse expert and need to expericence virtual worlds first hand to be a useful advisor and trainer. But this year two things happened: I got myself a Wii console with Balanceboard (to stay fit and have my very own bowling alley in the living room) and for a couple of weeks now I am seriously considering buying a Sony PS3 console just because of PlayStation Home (ok and the Blu-ray player is nice, too). I probably won’t do it because I still don’t like playing video games but what strikes me is that after all I’ve seen from the PS Home beta version I want to meet people this way!
The avatars look great, they’re highly customizable (albeit human – well I can be a flying dragon in Second Life anytime) and the body movements look much better than in SL. And it doesn’t seem to be as difficult to meet people because the area doesn’t stretch out over thousands of square kilometers (like the huge SL grid). It’s like a bar that’s never deserted – 24/7. And you get to meet people from all over the world, too. Ok you have that in SL all the time; but it can be difficult to find everybody. And who wants to look an armless Mii figurine or one of the new cartoony Xbox LIVE avatars? Let’s face it, we like looking human.
Easily customize your avatar. You don’t need to be a Photoshop expert and don’t have to pay extra (like in Second Life). Ok, you do have to pay for fancy cloths in Home as well – that’s the same in any virtual world.
Jack Buser says gamers don’t hang around in arcades (in real life) – that’s just not the way we do things today. Gaming is entertainment, like watching TV – it is a way to beat boredom. If we don’t have anything better to do and there are no friends around, we like to hang out with others nevertheless – be it (in the games) with NPCs (Non Player Characters), who are only software-controlled extras, or with other gamers, known to us only by their handle and score records (or in case of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft by the actions of the roles they’re playing).
The whole point seems to be that people more often than not like hanging out with other people. We are a social species – we even die if we don’t have contact to other human beings, after all. And if we have the opportunity, we very much like to play together. More than one study revealed: Gaming is not for loner’s and gamers are more social than non-gamers. Oh, and we sure do like decorating our own apartment and invite our friends.
And so I guess that’s what’s so intriguing about Home:
- we can hang out virtually anytime we don’t have anything better to do
- people we meet have the same knowledge about the game we do (no newbie challenges)
- if we’re up to it we can play with people we actually got to know a little, because we didn’t just shoot each others brains out but laughed or danced together (see the video below)
That’s what people do if you give them the opportunity…
It’s hang out on-demand. And it’s definitely a social virtual world – a shared virtual environment.
I think all other consoles will follow and offer similar hangouts for their users. And I hope that we’ll find a way to have a meta-friendlist some day: a buddylist with friends from all kinds of virtual worlds, game consoles and flat web social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed and the likes). Some kind of interoperability, so we can at least communicate (IM) with all our friends, in whatever world or network they prefer to hang out. I am not talking about data portability here – Pixelsebi blogged his detailed thoughts about that here – just about a standardized mechanism that automatically collects all my friends/connections from all platforms/networks where I have a public account (like Google’s SocialGraph).
And I am going to get me a PS3 – what the heck. It’s X-Mas after all 🙂
- Official PlayStation Home homepage
- Interview with PlayStation Home Director Jack Buser on Gamasutra
- Older article: PS Home – Just for gamers or a huge 3D social network with a pre-installed user base?
- Update: Pixelsebi’s screencast about „Distributed Social Networking“ (the first necessary step towards the scenario I described above)
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