Sony’s Home – the hell are you people thinking?

All right, here’s something that’s been brewing up for a while that I got to unload. This Home thing, the “free” (with $600 purchase) app for the Playstation 3. If you aren’t aware of it you can catch up over here. The mainstream gaming press fell all over themselves when this was announced, which is of course to be expected since they are by and large PR parasites riding the major game companies asses. What shocked me was that normally critical independent gamers, like Penny Arcade started shooting semen on themselves at sight of the demo. There seems to be almost universal consensus that yeah, even though Sony’s jipped and beaten and berated us repeatedly over the last few, suddenly that fucking $600 warm paperweight is TOTALLY WORTH IT MAN BECAUSE HOME LOOKS AAAAAAWESOME.

OK, fuck this shit. Here’s my main points of contention with Home –

1) The main features, or selling points of the game – changing clothes, having a home to go to with people, chatting, watching movies and listening to music with people, et cetera – these are all things that you can (and should) be doing in *real life*, right this minute and for all of eternity forthwith. You don’t need to buy some stupid expensive game system to do these things. I concede that, for family and friends geographically separated by various circumstances, this could be a neat thing for them. But $600? I’d consider this all a lot more innocuous if it didn’t require such a tremendous financial investment in technology which is otherwise useful only as a doorstop. And you know that spouses meeting with their deployed husbands in Iraq or whatever is going to be a real small percentage of the market on this one. It’s going to be a lot more about the suburban children of affluent parents going home after school to park themselves in front of the PS3 and hook up online with the same people they were just physically in contact with minutes ago.

This sort of leads in to my next two points –

2) It’s not “free”. Aside from throwing down hundreds of dollars for the hardware, there’s going to be advertising in it. Did you catch that in the Kotaku article I linked to up there? They listed that as a fucking feature. “Oh boy! Dynamic advertising! I certainly don’t get enough advertising rammed down my throat on a daily basis!” This distinction between “free” and ad-supported has not been brought up in any major gaming media outlets that I’ve seen yet. And I don’t think anything better illustrates the true nature of game journalism than this – they’re helping the fucking companies pitch advertising as a feature.

3) The “social networking” aspect. Sure, it’ll be great for “meeting new people”. Of course if our society weren’t so fucking screwed up and ass-backwards, we wouldn’t need shit like this – we’d actually go outside and meet each other, perhaps starting with our immediate neighbors. First of all, we’ve seen how easy access to high-tech social networking on a large scale works out – Myspace.
Myspace is an obnoxious pit of shallow self-absorbed stupid. Most people don’t go far beyond people they already know in real life, because it’s a fucking wasteland out there. You think this is going to develop in a different direction?

It also reinforces a lot of divides that we should probably be trying to bridge instead. There’s the issue of promoting superficiality – you’re not comfortable with how your physical appearance holds up to some marketing ideal in real life, so you run to this thing instead where you can craft some more physically appealing guise to hide behind while you socialize. There’s the issue of promoting mindless consumerism – instead of saving up to buy products and trinkets and status symbols in real life, you can pay real money for a virtual representation at a fraction of the cost here! Get that conformist consumer rush for pennies on the dollar! There’s the issue of living a virtual fucking life at the computer while increasingly abandoning the real one you should be paying a lot more attention to (see World of Warcraft for a precedent). Just for starters, you know, to get things warmed up.

But it’s gonna sell huge, probably. In spite of Sony’s repeated insults to their customers, legions of eager gamers (led by the gaming press) will wait with upturned faces and mouths open to recieve Sony’s latest wad of corporate jizz. People continue to hide out from an increasingly disturbing reality in electronic fantasy playlands, full corporate control of our lives marches on unabated, and the world continues going to hell. But enjoy watching those ad billboards shift based on what kicks you bought for your avatar at the online Nike store, I’m sure that’s gonna be a great time.

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