Impact of the Portable EOD

by Burbie52, HSM team writer

There are big changes coming into Home almost weekly now, it seems. We got our first multi-player game with No Man’s Land, with MiniBots shortly thereafter. These were swiftly followed by innovations in personal spaces with Blueprint and the Avalon Keep, and with Mercia scheduled to come out this week, the whole face of Home has undergone a radical change in a few short weeks. There is more to come, however; much more.

We are social creatures. We need a human connection, which comes in many forms. It has been proven time and again that we need this interaction to be healthy and productive. For many people, for various reasons, Home is their only way to have that connection. In the real world many of us connect through videos and music; the popularity and success of You Tube is a testament to that. In Home it is through social interactions in clubs and private estates and even in public, dancing being the chief source of entertainment that can be shared there.

It started as the whisper of a rumor last year: LOOT was working on a portable Entertainment On Demand that could be used anywhere in any estate. The idea was met with excitement by many, but also with a bit of skepticism: would they be able to pull it off with Home’s antiquated foundations? Then it was announced earlier this year that indeed this was their intent and that it would be arriving in the summer sometime. People speculated about the music capability; would it too make the jump into portability? It was the one thing I heard repeated many times, besides simply, “When is it coming?”

Well, it is finally here, and our questions are answered.

Rob Schneider approves!

Ever since I’ve been around this virtual reality, people in Home have been clamoring for more entertainment choices. When Loot came out with their Sunset Yacht, Hollywood Hills and Space Station, they were huge hits. Many people loved the idea of having friends over to watch a movie. The very idea that I can sit in a space in Home and watch on my Iptv service subscription, old TV shows, a movie or NASA events with friends that live hundreds or even thousands of miles away is mind-boggling to me. I love that.

When they added the RadioIO, it changed the whole scenario. Having the ability to play high-quality music in Home without burning out your right index finger with an R2 button is fantastic. The variety they offer is huge and covers every like or dislike – they even have Big Band music! This was an enormous step forward in adding entertainment value to the two personal estates that they offered us with the EOD installed.

The only drawback was that you could only have eleven people there if you wanted to throw a movie party or music get together. The twelve-person cap on personal spaces can create a big hurdle when you are wanting to entertain friends. Who do you pick to come to a party? Who do you leave out? It is hard, especially if you have a full friends list.

It has been confirmed now that there will be two different devices used to recreate the functions that the built-in EOD has in our estates

How about some choices?

and the theater. The original one without the music added will be coming out on the next update August 30th. The reason behind this is the memory constrictions, which is to be expected. The wonderful thing, though, is that they are also going to bring us the music we have wanted as well, later in the year. They have hinted at a holiday time frame. Imagine the Christmas parties that will sprout up all over Home! I am hoping that they make these “jukeboxes” just that, in a variety of colors and choices. Perhaps some could even look like a stereo cabinet for use in personal spaces. The possibilities are endless if you think about it — even a tabletop version for those of us who built a diner with those pieces that were given us awhile ago. What is a diner without a tabletop jukebox?

This new portable EOD is going to end all of this by allowing us to use them in clubhouses. That alone is going to change the social scene in Home dramatically. As it stands there are DJ’s who have worn their fingers to the bone trying to provide music for people when they have an event or party at their clubs. This will help them take breaks — and for those who don’t know a DJ, they will now have a resource for music at their fingertips.

Imagine when this is a real music player.

All of these improvements will not only bring a lot of longed-for content to Home, for those of us who have been waiting here for something like this, but it will also possibly add new people to our rosters and might even bring some back who became disenchanted with Home in the past year or so since the outage. Will this new technology bring these people back? Will it increase our active population? Only time will tell.

No matter how you look at this new innovation coming to us, you have to see that it alone will change the social interactions of many in the Home community. With Home Tycoon coming soon, and all of the other new content we can expect before the end of the year, I believe Home will be a very different place in a few more months, and those who have derided it and said it is only a game will have to rethink their position. Home is much more than a game, as we have said here many times; it is a living, growing community of individuals — and the portable EOD is a great leap forward in our growth.

Announcing HomeStation Magazine’s First Ever Annual Survey of Home, 2012

by Terra_Cide, HSM Managing Editor

You’ve come a long way, baby.

Just in the past year, Home has gone through some pretty massive changes, changes that three-plus years ago, when I first joined Home, were things we dreamed of, but could barely hope were possible.

But just where is Home going? One way of finding out is to see where it’s at right now.

Now, unless you’re Sony, there’s really no way of knowing any exact numbers. Sure, they’ve stated publicly that there are more than twenty-three-million PlayStation Home users, but that number is of such a size that it’s practically meaningless. Home has become such a complex place of games, social groups, and so much more, that to simply hang a number like 23 million on it is like trying comprehend what 80-100 billion galaxies in the observable universe looks like.

With 23M users, what does Home look like?

So we asked ourselves, why not try to give this picture a bit of clarity? And thus, the idea of creating a survey about Home was born.

Some might wonder why we haven’t done this before, and the truth of the matter is that had we done it sooner, it wouldn’t have been nearly as clear a picture. Our visitor numbers, we feel, now are beginning to represent a broader cross-section of Home, not to mention are, on the whole, much bigger than they were last year.

To our knowledge, nothing like this has been done before, making it the first – albeit unofficial – survey of Home. Drawing our inspiration from the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) annual surveys about the whole gaming industry, we did our best to craft questions that we felt would provide – at the very least – a vague “blocking” of an image of Home. We didn’t go too far into detail – finding out the best site to buy safe views on youtube, for example – as we didn’t want to ovewhelm survey takers with too many questions. That said, it could be something we look into in future surveys.

There are no opinion questions here; we just want the facts, and the facts are about you. It does not matter what region you are native to, nor does it matter which country you are from. Home is as near as makes no difference a global experience, and it’s time we record what that global experience looks like. All your responses will be completely anonymous; you do not need to register to take the survey, nor do we record your IP address, name, or email.

To take the survey, please follow this link:

You will be asked to complete a basic math question (just to make sure you’re not a bot), and from there, you can complete the survey.

We plan to leave the survey up and running for a month; we figure that should be long enough a time to collect a sufficient number of responses. Once the survey is over, we will begin to analyze the data, with the results being published by December.

We look forward to seeing how the community responds to the survey. Will there be any surprises? All bets are off here at HSM; we’re just genuinely excited to see what results the data will provide.

Please note that this survey is the sole responsibility of HomeStation Magazine, and is not affiliated in any way with Sony Computer Entertainment, its subsidiaries, its employees, past or present, its developers or their employees, past or present.

Best Dollhouse Games For Your Family

A dollhouse kit is every little girl’s dream! And to get one as a gift on her birthday is an even bigger dream that comes true. Dollhouses have a universal appeal and fascination as far as little girls or even boys are concerned. It is the child’s imagination of how her future house should be when she grows up. It gives the child a sense of belonging and she owns the responsibilities that come with owning the dollhouse.
When giving a dollhouse kit to a young girl, we have to ensure that it reflects her sense of personal style as closely as possible. We should provide a good collection of furniture and furnishings for the dollhouse giving space and freedom to the child for self expression. Once the children attain a sense of responsibility for the dollhouse they also feel the need to improvise in their own way so as to achieve a sense of belonging. They come up with the most innovative and modern design schemes and can do wonders to their dollhouses.
The children should be given full liberty to invent and improvise, they should be allowed to redecorate and repaint their dollhouses as per their personal choice. This ability of personal expression at this stage allows the child to grow-up as a confident and emotionally balanced human being.
The dollhouses for children give expression to their imagination and creativity. The dollhouses provide hours of entertainment and is a great way for the children to use their ingenuity.
Both young children and adults love dollhouse games. These offer a complete entertainment to the children. So the parents can use a dollhouse as a tool to train their child about responsibility, care, etiquette, and social behavior. The child learns to deal with everyday issues and learns to think about and provide for the playgroup family. It’s a great way to show the child how to behave in a community setting and to be a social animal. The child understands the need to be connected with people around her and her responsibilities towards them without any stress. The child automatically learns to be a good citizen and a fine human being. When they grow up they have a wonderful collection of experiences and a variety of interactions that they can look-back fondly upon.
A dollhouse is not only a play thing but a tradition that is moving downward from one generation to another. A mother feels proud to share her own dollhouse experience to her daughter and loves to observe the daughter learning and playing with her dollhouse with a new zest and enthusiasm. She is proud to witness her daughter’s sense of family and responsibility. The children have an overall contented and endearing experience with a dollhouse kit that is remembered throughout.

What if Home Had Started As A Gaming Platform?

“If we listened to everyone, Project Eternity would be a Japanese turn-based dating sim with insect people.”

–Feargus Urquhart, Obsidian Entertainment

Home was formally positioned, in the beginning, as a social network for gamers — and we are living with the legacy of that marketing to this day. But what if Home had initially been conceptualized and positioned as it exists now: as a gaming platform?


Well, you have to admit, it’s an interesting idea.


Look, this is a publication devoted first and foremost to the sociological aspects of Home, and it caters to an audience which cares more about Home’s social scene than its gaming scene. That said, because Home started as a social network for gamers and then evolved (out of business necessity) into a gaming platform, it’s left some of Home’s core loyalists out in the cold. It’s not that Home’s emphasis on games took anything away from the social scene — it’s that the more socially-minded users felt marginalized (or even betrayed) because it appeared that far less development resources were placed on making the Home experience itself more socially robust and entertaining.


So let’s turn this around for a moment.


Let’s say that Home launched today — as it exists, right now, in version 1.7, with the wide array of games and enticements we’ve watched organically grow and flourish over the last few years. Further, let’s say that it was originally pitched as a freemium gaming platform, rather than a social network for gamers; that the PR, from the beginning, emphasized Home’s gaming elements over its social elements.


Frankly, I think it would’ve done better.


We’re all PlayStation gamers. And Home is a free application built into each console. Realistically, we all would’ve ended up exploring Home out of curiosity anyway. The difference is that had Home 1.0 looked like Home 1.7 — with so much more to do — it stands to reason that it would have been far better received. Moreover, had it been positioned from the very beginning as a freemium gaming platform, rather than a social network for gamers, there would have been a very different set of expectations for Home.


I’ll wager, the social elements of Home would have thrived just as brightly. Possibly even moreso.


If you want proof of this, look no further than Xi.


I wasn’t there for Xi. And by the time the Xi Museum was released, the mini-games in it looked…well, rather quaint compared to what I was used to with the Sodium games, Novus Prime, and a few other attractions which had been deployed by that time. But Xi proved one incredibly important point: that if you put a bunch of gamers in a room and ask them to talk to each other, it’s not nearly as effective as giving them a game to enjoy as a shared experience upon which they can build a community.


If this sounds familiar, it’s because Jack Buser said exactly the same thing. And he was right.


Had Home been positioned up front as a freemium gaming platform — and had launched with the wide array of third-party games currently available — it really would have been a major selling point for owning a PS3 at the onset of this console generation. In an era where games are sixty bucks a pop (not including downloadable content add-ons) and it seems like most major titles can be had on any system, Home would have been a wonderful competitive edge: a free virtual world with low-cost gaming attractions, all built right into the machine from the get-go. As it is, Home unfortunately took half a decade just to get to the point it’s at now, and this console generation is drawing to a close.


And the community? It would have been just fine. Home would still have all the same social interface tools we’re used to, but society-building wouldn’t have been the marketing emphasis. As a result, you’d have gamers treating Home as a sort of low cost virtual arcade environment, and there wouldn’t have been any of the expectations about streaming movies and music from the hard drive, a Hall of Fame “trophy room,” or any of the other talking points that were emphasized in the original PR outreach under Phil Harrison’s tenure. You’d still have clans, groups, fams, cliques, clubs, media and all the rest of the wonderfully diverse community that’s sprung up in Home, based on the percentage of overall users who came for the games and stayed for each other.


This does not mean that Home doesn’t have design flaws. It’s still a metaverse with no purpose, there are still glitches and bugs which need to be ironed out in order to facilitate the creation of better gaming experiences, the blocking system is still not where it needs to be, clubhouse functionality (more accurately, the lack thereof) is shameful, and the Home navigator interface buries most of Home’s content under a disappointing number of clicks. But a Home which had been positioned up front as a gaming platform instead of a social network would have, quite frankly, been better for everyone — and now, with Home 1.7 unleashed, we’re finally going to start to see virtual commodities offered for sale which deepen the social interface of Home.


It’s nice to see what we were writing about two years ago come to fruition.


It’s taken me a while to get to the point of view that a gaming-oriented Home is a better proposition; I came into Home for its social scene, because ever since I was a kid, the idea of living inside a video game has held a unique fascination for me. Who knows, maybe I watched too many episodes of Captain N back then. But Home, even in the comparatively primitive state it was in back when I joined in ’09, filled that curiosity. That said, I can’t deny that Home in its current state, with a much wider array of gaming attractions, is far more interesting to explore — and the social scene is still there. Some of the old hangouts are gone, which is a shame, and some friends have moved on from Home, but it is ultimately a more diverse environment than it used to be — and games made that happen.


Since we can’t change the past, what can we hope for in the future?


Realistically, Home still has a few years left. Just as PS2 sales didn’t automatically switch off when the PS3 came about, it’s not like the next console generation is going to automatically kill the PS3 and Home. I do wonder, though, if 2012 (and possibly 2013, if developers aren’t too tied up supporting the massive projects they launched this year) is a sort of “peak oil” period for Home as we know it. Already there are the first signs, with multiple Home developers shifting resources to the Vita — and this makes sense, as it’s a brand new piece of hardware that Sony is keen to support.


What I’m personally hoping for is a clean-sheet redesign (and reconceptualization) of Home for the PS4. There’s only so much that can be done with Home in its current state, and let’s remember that it’s running on architecture that was originally conceived for the PS2. The core team in London has done a remarkable job of somehow making all of this stuff work for the most part, but it’s like taking a low-end car and constantly garnishing it with tuner kit parts. At some point, you just want a newer, better car.


I can only speculate as to what such a redesigned Home would look like. I don’t think it needs to run in 4K or be anything particularly outrageous (we’re in a 1080p era and Home chugs along quite contentedly at 720), but I will contend it should be conceptualized from the ground up as a gaming platform with social elements, as opposed to a social network with gaming elements. We’re in an era where there’s a tremendous shift to mobile and casual gaming, and having a freemium gaming platform built into the PS4 makes a strong case for investing in yet another console.


And for god’s sake, launch the thing with some robust games up front. How would gaming journalism have reacted all those years ago if they entered PS3 Home and found Sodium, Novus Prime, No Man’s Land, Cutthroats, Mercia and MiniBots all available for them, right off the bat? I’ll wager it would have been a far more positive reaction.


Because Home had to change its primary concept after it was already underway, there’s always been this us-versus-them debate about social users versus gamers with Home. The notion that, somehow, those evil gamers were let in and catered to, while social users had to stand in the corner and feel like their Home was denuded. This could have been avoided, had Home marketed itself up front as a gaming platform which happened to have some social elements — and had the games to back it up when it launched.


Perhaps there will be no second-generation Home; perhaps it is a venture which Sony has carried for half a decade, and not realized sufficient return on its investment to justify committing further resources. Or, perhaps, the next console generation will indeed see a new version of Home, using all the lessons learnt from the previous iteration. We will see.

Review of X-Men Arcade

By Stryctnin, HSM team writer


I’m a slight fan of X-Men.


I’ve collected well over 300 issues of Uncanny X-Men and various spin off titles, plus action figures, statues and other memorabilia. So, needless to say…I’m a comic book geek.


On my Facebook account I have PlayStation, PSN and Home liked so that I receive daily updates. Last Monday, I received an update listing the games coming to the PSN store. I was especially excited over one title – X-Men Arcade. Now, I had played this when it came out to the arcades in 1992 (at your typical Putt-Putt Golf and Games). A few friends and I popped quarters into the machine and clustered around the viewscreen, shoulder to shoulder, while we fought numerous villains. How I miss the old arcades; the warm glow of many neon lights flashing, the loud dings, buzzes, bells of all the machines, the smell of hot dogs and nachos.


On the day of the update, while waiting to download the game, I went into Home and talked with a friend. We discussed the game and whether or not he would buy it. He said that he wasn’t going to, because he was tired of them (Sony) releasing old games. He wanted new games. And I agree: there do seem to be a lot of older games being released into the PSN Store lately. I think it’s for the older gamers who reminisce about their teens and remember playing these games. A “simpler” time for gaming.


My friend wondered how much it would be and tried to dissuade me from buying it, saying that it would probably be $15 or $20.


“I hope not; I doubt I’d purchase it for that much,” I replied.


Luckily for me, it was only $9.99. So, I eagerly purchased it and clicked on “Download.”


The download was fast — only took about five minutes (you forget how much smaller these old game files are!).  Once it was complete, I jumped right into the game. When you start, you can pick from six characters – Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler or Dazzler. I chose Colossus. I just think that Wolverine gets too much exposure and is overrated. Shush.


The game play is simple, and the controls basic. Push square or circle to punch, push X to jump and push triangle to use your special mutant power (which will come in handy once you get surrounded by a bunch of baddies or while going up against a boss).


X-Men-Arcade is a 2D brawler, much like Final Fight, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage or Double Dragon. Like I said, it’s very basic: walk a couple of steps and enemies break holes in walls or come from the outer edge of the screen and punch or shoot you. You just punch them but try not to get surrounded by too many. The best strategy is to corral them into a group and punch them all at one time.


The first level looks like a Sentinel manufacturing plant, and that’s the type of enemies you get – human-sized Sentinels. Eventually, you’ll come to the end, and the boss of the level comes out. Pyro is the first boss you’ll encounter. Others you’ll encounter are Blob, Mystique, Wendigo, Nimrod, the White Queen, Juggernaut, and — of course — Magneto. I give the developers at Backbone Entertainment credit for having lesser-known and unpopular characters featured in this game.


After running around in the Sentinel factory for a couple of levels, Professor Xavier invades your mind and tells you that he and Kitty Pryde have been kidnapped by Magneto and that you must rescue them. This storyline is based on a 1989 X-Men cartoon called Pryde of the X-Men.


(Okay, I’m really dating myself now. You kids. Hmph.)


The second level looks like the Savage Land, an island inhabited by dinosaurs. The X-Men frequent this place a lot in the comics. And, yes, right on cue, here comes the horde of lizard men, sprinkled with an occasional Sentinel.


The graphics are slightly touched-up, but not much. If you like X-Men, old-school arcades or old-school 2D action, then this game is a must-buy. If you like to trophy hunt, the game does have 12 trophies, which are fairly easy to acquire. At the time of this writing I hadn’t finished my play-through, and really wasn’t trying to collect trophies, yet I’ve already received five from it.


If none of this applies to you, I’d say skip it. It gets boring really fast, unless you’re like me and you get excited just by seeing the different characters. One more thing: it is multiplayer. Up to six people can play online and locally. So I can still have my friends play it with me, just not shoulder to shoulder anymore — and, unless I’m cooking them with a mutant power, I don’t smell hot dogs or nachos. Mmmmm. Nachos.


I’m giving this 5 mutagens out of 10, mostly for the memorabilia and because it doesn’t have Rogue or Gambit. I demand a decent-looking Rogue in a game!

Reflecting on two years of Home

By NorseGamer, HSM Editor-in-Chief


What does PlayStation Home mean to you?


When you think of Home, what emotions or experiences come to mind?


Amazing to realize that Home just celebrated its two-year anniversary. Even more astonishing to think of just how much Home has evolved in the last year alone. Remember the egregiously long loading times? The old navigator format? Heck, just pause for a moment and consider how much new content was introduced into Home in the last twelve months. Both in terms of infrastructure and entertainment, Home is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was twelve months ago.


But this is all window dressing. Home is not, as some contend, “just a game.” Home is a living, breathing virtual reality. It’s the human element, not the gaming element, which is at the core of Home’s addictive nature.


Any fan-journalism project devoted to Home can commentate on what Sony announces on its blog. All the shiny bells and whistles. And yes, that’s fine. But HSM has a different approach:


We don’t care about the shiny new toys and features. We care about how they make you feel.


So: what does Home mean to you?


I think, perhaps, it’s time for a more personal article.


Here’s what Home means to me:


I was never the popular kid at school. I’m not blessed with a lantern jaw or innate athletic ability. My fashion sense is in no way trendy. I was a bookworm with mousy brown hair and a taste for science-fiction. I’m not much good at making small talk, and I’d prefer the company of nature and books to the capricious and specious harshness of other people. Over the decades, I’ve done what I could to compensate — learned (and taught) martial arts, played a ton of sports, and generally tried to “fit in.”


Except I don’t. And that’s painfully obvious.


I’m now a grown adult in my thirties with two college degrees and a successful  career. But to a large extent I still feel like a geeky suburban beta-male kid watching my favorite cartoons while waiting for dinner. With chocolate milk.


A friend of mine commented that you have to be slightly damaged in some way to find Home so addictive. Who knows. Maybe he’s right. But here’s why Home is special to me:


In real life, I’m very uncomfortable trying to make casual conversation. I’m not great on my feet. I’m not particularly suave, witty or at ease. If it’s business, I’m in my element. If it’s chit-chat, you might as well talk to my cat. Yet on Home, everything’s inverted: he who is the most interesting to read is the winner. And in a world of text bubbles with acronym salad (for the love of god, STOP TYPING “lol” AT THE END OF EVERY SENTENCE!), absolutely horrific grammar, casual rudeness and a general lack of enculturation, I suddenly have the advantage.


On Home, you are actually rewarded socially for being able to communicate with the written word in a literate, intelligent, properly-punctuated manner. People seek you out and want to hang out with you. Girls find you interesting. People compliment you for not dressing like a thug who just got out of prison.


And here’s the best part: when some doorknob in a tank top, baggy trousers and a bandanna comes up to me and tries to tear me down, accusing me of being gay, insulting my method of communicating…I get to mute him.


Oh. Hell. Yes. I’ll take “The Penis Mightier” for $500, Alex.


Home is special to me because it lets me have a social life.


My ex-wife was a social butterfly. She loved to go party, have fun, and mingle. To her, Home was a minor amusement. It was, to her, “just a game.”


Not to me.


I have a successful business career, but I have no life. Home gives me confidence to be social. No anxiety. No awkwardness. Home is my comfort zone. On Home, I can go to a discotheque and dance like John Travolta. I can surround myself with people and not be uncomfortable. Home hits dopamine pleasure centers of my brain that have long been dormant.


Home lets me be the popular kid on the playground. On Home, I get to have the last laugh at the bullies and jocks. Frankly, Home lets me put to rest a lot of the demons I’ve carried since I was a child.


That’s why Home is special to me. And why I’ve invested a considerable sum of money into it. Some of you reading this perhaps might think that this is rather sad: that I should go get a life. I would counter that we all geek out over something. Picture someone who follows a particular group, buys their merchandise, dresses up like them, and attends regular gatherings all over the country to support them.


Did I just describe your typical anime/video game geek? Or did I describe an NFL football fan? Or a rock band fan?


See what I mean? We all geek out over something. For me, it’s Home. Home lets me have a life.


…Wow. That was all quite hard to write, actually.


So, we now come full-circle, back to the original question: what does Home mean to you? I’d genuinely like to know. Because that, to me, is interesting. Not the gee-whiz new features, items and spaces. Not the incessant procession of new mini-games. The community. This is a community that interests me, because it’s a community I can be a part of, and hopefully give back to with this magazine.


What does Home mean to you?

Banning the Un-Bannable

By Cynella, HSM staff writer

Finally, after a long day of answering phones and helping customers, you have arrived home from work.

After grabbing some food to satiate your appetite, you turn the PlayStation on and log into Home. Check a few messages. Then it’s off to join your friends in Central Plaza.

There is no better stress-reliever than standing on a bench in the plaza, reading all of the insane jargon that people believe to be important in life. There are great conversations to delve into as well, which keeps everything interesting. And then there is…

Ugh. You see him coming. The one person that has never been on your friends list, has been blocked for several months, though still manages to find you. Whether you are at Central Plaza or the Hudson Gate, he always shows up. After weeks of interrogating all the people on your friends list, you realize that he isn’t on their list either. The only refuge to be had is a clubhouse or private space.

So: what makes this person roll your eyes upon seeing him?

Let’s start from the beginning. Standing in the mall among friends, this avatar always seems to be near. He doesn’t socialize too much; being a friend of a friend, he sits, waits and watches as you talk about certain issues in your personal and Home life. You don’t notice him too much, never guessing that he’s lying in wait and learning your every flaw. Life goes on as usual: the good times and the drama.

Weeks later — maybe even months – you’re sitting, unsuspecting, on the bench. Talking with your friends as usual. And here he comes. Not only does he begin to poke fun at your every flaw, but he also begins to attack everyone that is associated with you in this area. Becoming annoyed at this attack, you ask him to leave you alone and you promptly remove yourself from the area. A couple of days go by and you don’t think about him again.

While you’re enjoying a great game of bowling, he seemingly stumbles upon you again. This time his attacks elevate and include profanity.

So:

Select button.

Submit a report.

[Insert name].

Profanity.

Submit.

Even though you are trying to silence your fingers and not feed into his attack, you take comfort knowing that there is a Report option available at a click of your controller. Later on that evening you get a message from a friend: he has found the same troll in another area in Home, slandering your good name and attacking your friends as well.

The cycle continues until ten of your good friends have graduated to his hit list. Compiling notes with various friends, he always seems to bring up personal things about each user and use excessive amounts of profanity. Each one of your friends, by this time, has reported him numerous times.

You begin to wonder: is there such a thing as an un-bannable account?

No matter which space you go to, what time of day, or who you are with, here he comes. You not only have reported him for profanity and racial slurs, but now he has graduated into stalking. So you have also reported him for this. Growing annoyed at his invasive tactics, you also have blocked him. Unfortunately, while this stops the rude, attacking messages in your inbox, it doesn’t stop him from embarrassing you in front of other avatars while you watch him wave his arms around, reminding you that indeed he is talking.

You do your best to forget about it. Home’s great, right? Don’t let one rotten apple spoil the fun. Just get your kodi download and enjoy your couch.

Ahhh, home at last, after another exhausting day at work. You log into Home. Alas, there is an update, so you download it while making yourself something to eat. Finally, arriving into Home, you see a lot of people game launching. Game launching has been around for a bit, but now it is improved. You can now launch any game. This is kind of cool, you think. You grin and run off to the Mall.

Enjoying the evening, you realize you haven’t seen your stalker in two days. Perhaps all the reports have caught up with him, you think, and breathe a sigh of relief.

A good hour into your deep conversation with your friend about the latest outfits that have come out with the new update, you receive a game launching request. Opening up your personal PDA you check out your alerts to see who it came from.

Your heart stops.

Even though you have blocked him, he has the capability of asking you to play a game with him.

Panic sinks in as you realize he has found a way to annoy you. You try to ignore the fact that he has sent you a game launching request, and then it starts: twenty rapid game launches later you attempt to report him again — but where is the report option for game launching annoyance? The game launching escapades continue every time he is in your presence. Although you are not the only victim of this annoying attempt to lag you out of the server, you can’t help but to feel singled out.

Eventually Home updates itself again, and with the updates another way to lag the server is born.

Have you ever seen different avatars in Home wearing spikes through their hats or clothes over their costumes? While most people view this as a harmless glitch, think about this glitch multiplied by being able to wear as many clothing items as you want at a time. When you enter a space your PlayStation has to download each individual item, including what the other avatars are wearing. At times this can leave you feeling like the only loaded avatar in Home, and everyone appears to be ghosts. When an avatar, or several avatars are in a single area wearing multiple clothing layers, this can cause the server to lag, or even boot you out of the Home network. This attacker knows very well that this will happen, and is attempting to lag you out of the server.

Now at the end of your rope as to how to deal with this local annoyance, all you can do is avoid him as best you can. Between you and his other numerous victims, he has been reported over a hundred times for stalking, profanity…you name it.

In the example behind this story, one of my friends even called Sony — to no avail.

The question arises: do people get banned from the PlayStation Network at all?

Well, quite simply, the answer is yes. Whether someone gets banned for saying a two-letter abbreviation of a profane phrase, quotes scripture from the Bible that can be misconstrued as hate speech, or simply for the username they chose when they created their account, fact is: people are getting banned. Just not this guy. For some reason you can’t fathom.

What will it take, Sony? Will it take videotaping the TV screen and subpoenaing the user’s IP address?

Enjoying a nice day in Central Plaza, you receive a message that your stalker has come down with a severe case of Yellow Light of Death. Yes. YES. All of Home has just breathed a sigh of relief at the loss of an annoyance.

Alas, here he comes, strutting like he owns Home. He most likely never got hit with a YLOD, and probably started the rumor himself. Leaving the area to rid yourself of the pest, you vow never to give up reporting him for every instance that he violates the End User License Agreement, and pray for the day that he receives a MAC address ban.

It’s a shame that one user can cause so much pain in what is otherwise a wonderful experience. And a larger shame that Sony does so little about it.

PSN Game Review: Sonic Adventure

Game Review: Sonic Adventure


by BigMak43, HSM staff writer


This particular game review might just show my age a bit.


Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a gaming system that was supposed to redefine “epic.” It would be so epic that Icelandic sagas would be written about its brilliance.


Well, it was epic. Epic fail. It failed harder than Lindsay Lohan’s last sobriety test.


What is this system, you ask?


Well, my friends, today we’re talking Sega Dreamcast. Good, old, (thankfully) long-dead Dreamcast.


Six paragraphs in, I know what you’re thinking: what does that failboat of a system have to do with the PS3?


Sonic Adventure!


Sonic Adventure was originally a Dreamcast game. Now it’s available to us in the PlayStation world — with 99% of the epic glory of this lost treasure still intact.


Sonic Adventure saw a change in the basic format of the series: less straightforward paths comprised of collecting rings and killing baddies, in lieu of a more open-world Sonic experience. Two different levels, with different sub-levels to explore. It also boasts 3D(ish) graphics, which were (almost) top of the line back then. Don’t expect too much from the open world, though: not a lot of interactive elements. This ain’t Grand Theft Auto, after all.


In Sonic Adventure, you have a good array of characters to choose from: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and others, each with their own story. In this regard, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.


(Think of that first-gen PS2 game, “The Bouncer.” Its one real hook was its Rashomon-like plot device of telling the same story from multiple perspectives, all with different moves and cutscenes. This is somewhat similar, just more pixelated.)


This is where, like Bald Bull’s arrival in “Punch-Out!!”, things start to get harsh.


Controls. Decent, but there are many frustrating points in this game. From failed camera angles to just blatantly horrific controller sensitivity, even the best gamer on the planet would scream out in frustration like F. Murray Abraham in “Star Trek Insurrection” (or the audience as they’re forced to watch it).


The glitches in the game are even worse. You’re happily speeding around a corner, and poof! You’re through a wall, and it’s say-hello-to-insta-die. Let’s just say that if Sixaxis controllers weren’t a bit pricy…I’d be needing some new ones right now. And maybe a fire extinguisher.


Graphics. Same as they were before: very blocky, old-school 3D. So, euphemistically, you could say they’re “a nice flashback” in a sense. Some HD facelifting would have been nice, but nopers — no botox for these jagged polygons.


Music. Ha! If you can call it that. It’s that good, late-nineties digital stuff. Mute works just as well. So does sticking a power drill in your ear.


Actually, if I’m honest, there was one tune that was kind of decent, in the same way that post-nosejob Jennifer Gray is kind of decent. It’s in the Casino, at the Cards Pinball.


(Here’s a completely off-topic tip: when it turns to night in-world, the casino opens. And if you go to the Cards Pinball as Sonic…many a free guy to be won. Just be dilligent. A little tip for my peepz, yo.)


As a cute side-adventure, you can raise small creatures to race and such. Reminded me a lot of Digimon, frankly. It’s a neat little aside to try in the game.


Still. Despite the bad controls and camera, Sonic Adventure is actually quite fun, and a good showing of a classic game from a system that was dead on arrival. Sure, like nearly any game from that era, it’d be nice to re-experience it with George Lucas touch-ups. But even in its original, Han-shoots-first glory, Sonic Adventure is still a great showcase for how the series made the switch from 2D side-scrolling to a 3D open-world format that can still be seen to this day in the newest Sonic games on the PS3.


I give Sonic Adventure on the PSN a solid 6 out of 10. It’s just a decent game. With a price tag of $9.99 you really can’t go wrong if you want to try a classic Sonic game, or just replay it if you enjoyed it the first time around. It also boasts some Playstation Home rewards, so for you Home addicts, a sweet Sonic shirt is always a nice addition to any closet. If it was fixed or updated in some of the ways mentioned above, it would be better. But, candidly, a part of me is glad they didnt “fix” it. Yes, I just contradicted myself. Shaddap.


Bottom line: if you’re a Sonic fan and enjoy some Home rewards, this game will satisfy both cravings.


bigMak43 is a 31-year-old  self-described “slacker gamer”  whose opposable thumbs have gripped game controllers since the days of the Sega Master System. He is the magazine’s game reviewer as well as an avid Home user. He is a chef and lives in Massachusetts.

Discovering Love In Home

By hibana, HSM Advertising Editor


Let’s face it: a lot of people are on Home, and other virtual realities, looking for love.


You can dress it up or justify it any way you want: they’re looking for “friendship” or “to make connections,” but these are euphemisms. You need only look at the behavior of a fair percentage of Home’s population on any given day and see this quest in action, with hilarious, poignant and painful results.


Sometimes it’s juvenile: “wanna be my online gf?” is a question asked far, far too often. These are just teenagers with more hormones than common sense. Their loneliness is screaming out at the world with every text bubble.


Sometimes it’s emotionally distressing. You form an emotional and intellectual bond with someone, only to find out that the pictures (or even the gender) were faked. People become trapped in webs of their own lies, because appearances do matter – as does honesty.


Sometimes, however…lightning strikes.


It has to. Just look at the numbers. There are many, many people throughout the western world who have signed up on internet dating sites. A growing number of people meet their future spouses online, and this is a trend which will only continue to accelerate as younger generations grow up and mature.


(Consider, for a moment: the generation born in 1990 is already in college. And to this group, the internet has always existed. Attempting to describe the analog world that existed as little as ten years prior to their birth is like trying to explain daily life in Alexander’s Macedonia. There’s just no sense of connection.)


This is a touchy subject. Heck, love is probably the touchiest subject anyone can ever write about. Because it’s intensely personal, and inherently vulnerable. There are a lot of failed love stories on Home.


It’s time to read about a successful love story.


These are two users you’ve almost certainly never heard of: coco_cnhand sodium76. You’ll probably never meet them. They have done nothing to earn fame or great wealth. They are simply two people who use Home.


They are also an astonishing, genuine love story. I’m frankly grateful I had the opportunity to speak with them. Most of my conversation was with Coco, as Marc was quite shy about the whole matter.


——-


I. “HIS LITTLE BALL OF SUNSHINE”


HomeStation Magazine: So, tell me about yourselves; where are you both from? Do you live together in real life?


Coco_cnh: Sodium76 is from Quebec, Canada; he speaks French and English, but he is quite shy. I’m from Texas. It was actually Marc (Sodium76) who made the choice to fly down here when we agreed to meet for the first time.


Sodium76: Three short hours on a plane but a month of nervousness waiting for it!


HSM: Let’s get a bit of backstory. You two both met in PlayStation Home? At the EA Poker Rooms? How exactly did you two get to know each other?


Coco: We met on Home on December 10th, 2009, and in real life on March 12th, 2010. We played poker together a lot. We never spoke much, but always tried to get the same table. It only took us a few days for both of us to warm up and start conversations together.


HSM: Most of the time, it takes a while to break the ice between two strangers.


Coco: Yes. When we started getting to know each other better, I’d just be talking to him and playing without even caring about my cards. We just got caught up having fun with each other…and then there was one day when he told me I was his little ball of sunshine.


HSM: Really! How did you react when he called you that?


Coco: It was just a month after we met, but I was all smiles and giggles. If you’d have told me a year ago that I would fall in love online, I wouldn’t believe it.


HSM: And he would end up being your future husband.


Coco: It’s frankly easy to fall for someone – but being truthful and willing to let down that barrier to meet in real life is very hard. We just both had a special set of circumstances that allowed us to restart our lives together. It’s so easy to talk to people on Home, but it’s a whole different story in the real world. Still – I couldn’t stop thinking about what this guy was really like.



II. GOING ALL-IN


HSM: Speaking of meeting in real life, how did that all come about? That’s a huge step. Who initially broached the idea?


Coco: I actually asked him to chat on mic/cam on my second message to him. I’d actually been thinking of moving up to Montreal, but my mother got sick and the job prospect didn’t work out. He then decided, in poker terminology, that it was time for him to go “all in” and make his big move.


HSM: An interesting set of coincidences, or destiny’s hand at work, as corny as that may sound?


Coco: Very much destiny. I think we were never really happy until we found each other through Home.


HSM: Home was originally just supposed to be a social hub for gamers (as far as I know); I think it’ll be interesting for people, including Sony, to know that it goes way beyond that.


Coco: But it’s GREAT for dating. You already have things in common, such as gaming.


HSM: As you know, though, there are a lot of creeps out there – and a ton of harassment – which largely discredits Home as a “dating hub.”


Coco: I’ve met my fair share. Marc was the first truly kind and attractive man I’d ever seen on Home.


HSM: Your story might turn some heads and make them think otherwise about the whole dating-on-Home situation.


Coco: We hope so. We want to eventually do a dating-on-Home advice blog. We thought everything out when we made the decision to meet.


(Editor’s note: this particular story deals with two consenting adults who voluntarily chose to take certain risks. As there are legal minors using Home, it should be noted that HSM does not condone or endorse any behavior which is in violation of Sony’s terms of usage.)


Coco: Besides, I see a lot of “virtual marriages” on Home all the time, so I think such a blog would gather a lot of attention. We actually went all the way.


HSM: I believe you two are the first couple that I’m aware of that’s actually accomplished this on Home. Let’s talk about how the first real-world meeting went. Was it hectic?


Coco: He was packing literally three hours before the plane took off. His family even threw him a going-away party.


HSM: Was it tough for him to leave everything he knew? Did he have any regrets?


Coco: No. He’d always lived his life to make others happy, and he viewed this as him finally taking control of his life. His family got a PS3 and Eyecam, so we can talk with them whenever we wish.



III. WATCHING THE BUTTERFLIES


HSM: Let’s talk about the actual first meeting between you two. Marc has finished his flight from Montreal to Texas. What was going through both of your minds?


Coco: Honestly, I didn’t know how I felt. He felt the same. We were both nervous and excited to actually come face to face with each other.


HSM: And when you both finally met…?


Coco: The airport was very crowded and busy. I’d been waiting for him to come out of the arrival point, but it was hard to tell people apart with all the traffic. My heart was beating so fast! Finally, I saw him exit out, and I just ran to him. Calling his name. There were so many people coming out that he couldn’t hear me. When I finally walked up to him, he just grabbed me and kissed me.


HSM: SO ROMANTIC! This is seriously too much like a movie; I can’t believe this is actually real.


Coco: It was!


HSM: The way that moment unfolded – was it how you pictured it in your mind?


Coco: I never put a thought to that, actually; and I know that, to him, it was all a big shock. It took him a week to get used to the fact that this was his new life.


Marc: I was just in awe that I was holding the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.


Coco: After that, we drove. We stopped at this beautiful park and we just sat on a bench, talking to each other, and watched the butterflies.


HSM: Coco, you’re a lucky woman.


Coco: Thank you. I still cry about it. It was very emotional for him, and he is so good with my family and I.


HSM: I’m assuming you both stayed at your home?


Coco: Actually, we didn’t live with each other for the first month. He stayed at a local Holiday Inn.


HSM: …By choice?


Coco: Yes. It’s something most people wouldn’t think of doing. But, no matter how much time you spend online, you can never prepare yourself for the shock of it. In a way, you are still strangers.


HSM: Makes sense; as much as you know someone online, it’s still totally different when it happens in the real world.


Coco: Exactly. So he lived in the hotel to build up our relationship, and it gave us time away from each other to reflect on our actions.


HSM: What were your thoughts and feelings when you were away from him, even though he was so close?


Coco: We just missed the hell out of each other – we’d see each other for a few hours every day, and we ended up staying on camera with each other most of the rest of the time! After three weeks, I couldn’t take it — so I decided to live in the hotel for a while with him. That way it was just us. No outside interference.


HSM: It must have felt strange for him to be in a place where he knew no one – except for you – and spent all his time holed-up in that hotel, alone.


Marc: It was, but it was really worth it. We didn’t want to rush things, and we were free while living in the hotel. It was really fun for both of us.


Coco: It was the perfect space to be alone and have peace and quiet. We learned SO much about each other.


HSM: Such as?


Coco: Well, Marc’s a neat freak. And he’s one of those guys that dumb girls say are “just too nice.” After dating many jerks, it was refreshing to meet a kind and caring guy for once. Even after he discovered how messy I can be!


HSM: But you two were both accepting of these quirks?


Coco: Oh, yes. I also taught him how to drive a car, too! He used the metro system in Montreal, and it takes years to get a driver’s license in Quebec, so he didn’t bother to get one. And, in return, he taught me French. But most importantly…


HSM: Yes?


Coco: We taught each other how to be happy. We learned what true love is. And we taught each other to let go of the past. How to just let go of all the old baggage that life gives you. Everyone has bad memories, or something in life that bothers them; but, together, we just let that all go.



IV. “I HAVEN’T TOLD YOU THIS YET…”


HSM:  So when did you decide to let him move in with you?


Coco: After he’d been here a month. I used to live alone, but after my mother got sick, both of my folks moved in so we could both take care of her. I have a large house, so Marc had space for himself as well.


HSM: Ah, so Marc inevitably had to meet your parents.


Coco: They loved him immediately. Everything clicked, and since Marc never had a father…


HSM: Oh – I see.


Coco: He and my dad are so ridiculously funny and crazy together. It’s a fulfilling aspect to his life here.


HSM: This whole story reminds me of a puzzle, being connected piece by piece.


Coco: There’s another piece. I haven’t told you this yet. Five years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since Marc and I met, he has helped me to let go of it a bit.


HSM: …I’m sorry. I’m just at a loss for words. I can’t believe this. Honestly, this is too much.


Coco: It’s okay. I just feel better because I’m happier. It didn’t make it go away, but it lets me forget in moments of laughter and smiles. I think love can do anything. Having someone to stand beside you, to take care of you, accepting you no matter what…it makes you a healthier person in the long run. I think we are inseparable now. And on February 14th, 2011, we are expecting a baby!


HSM: How long did it take for you two to decide that it was time to start a family of your own together? How did you even reach such a decision?


Coco: I was told many times that I would never have children because of my diagnosis, but Marc would never accept that. He just said it will happen if it’s meant to be; apparently, he has magic DNA.


HSM: This is amazing. I’m serious.


Coco: All natural. No fertility drugs. No crazy planning. I think people just try too hard and lose sight of what a baby is; I think it’s just a manifestation of your love. It all goes back to love.



V. WORTH THE LEAP


HSM: Congratulations! It’s funny how a game of online poker helped you both get together today.


Coco: That’s the great part about dating on Home. You get to see how a person interacts and reacts to situations. You get to see much more of a true person than just what a dating site will show you.


HSM: I’m pretty sure dating sites don’t have poker or bowling to offer…


Coco: I’m so hopeful that other couples share our happiness soon. Other sites are just text and pictures; you can’t see how a person would dress, decorate his house, or react to you getting hit on by a random guy. Home is wonderful.


HSM: Coco, it’s going to be difficult to persuade people about this happening successfully on Home. But they should know that it IS possible; you two are the living proof of it, after all.


Coco: I know that not everyone can afford to do the things that we did – but if you’re both adults who have a healthy, long-term relationship on Home, then it might be worth the leap.


HSM: Just like the poker game where you first met. You went all-in, and won. Home proves that love can happen just about anywhere.


Coco: It truly does. And the results are astonishing. My health had really gotten me down, and he has helped me balance work and pushed me to use my heart. He gave me happiness. Meanwhile, his family says that I brought life back into his eyes. He dealt with depression for many years. I can’t really say more than that, sorry. I can tell you, however, that now he works alongside me, and enjoys every moment of life.


HSM: You two really were made for each other, in the truest sense of the phrase.


Coco: I wake up every day beside him. I know I’m right where I need to be in life, and I’m happy with the cards I was dealt, no matter what.


HSM: Most couples – most people – would do anything to have a fairytale story like yours.


Coco: No matter how bad you think your life is…a new one – the one you were meant to have – is waiting for you. He and I were both broken souls, drifting. But that all went away, and we never looked back.


——–


This whole story just seemed too unbelievable to take in. But it’s real. And I had to accept that.


I’m not really sure how to conclude this. There are so many failed stories out there. So much pain and tragedy. Do you find yourself envious, reading this? Do you find yourself doubting it? Or has Home worked similar magic for you?


This is an unusual story for HSM. It has very little to do with video games. There are no whiz-bang tech elements. The interviewees are both unknowns. It’s a story you won’t really find covered in any other fan project devoted to Home. It’s simply the story of two soul mates who found each other, thanks to Home. Perhaps that is the single greatest service Home provides, without even realizing it.


HSM would very much like to hear your feedback regarding this story. Many thanks to you for reading it. And my gratitude and support goes to Coco and Marc. May we all find what we’re looking for.


May we all find what they found.

Prejudice in Home

By Keara22HI, HSM staff writer


How do people behave when they’re conveniently and safely anonymous?


How would you behave?


In an ideal world, appearance would not matter. Color, age, size, racial characteristics, gender, and sexual preferences would be invisible. The only thing that would matter is what the person had inside himself – integrity, intelligence, and a sense of humor. You would be accepted on the basis of your conversational skills – or lack thereof.


And you had the opportunity, when you created your avatar, to alter your appearance and improve on what mother gave you. Did you make the chin a little stronger? Add some inches to your height? Delete some inches from the waist? Or, did you go for a complete makeover? After hundreds of interviews, I was amazed to learn that almost no one in Home changed the racial markers (skin color, facial features, hair) that identify them in real life – even those who admitted that they have been the victim of racial prejudice at least once in their lives.


The other amazing social phenomenon taking place within Home is that some prejudices, in a digital world, are presently considered more socially acceptable by the community at large, while others are politically incorrect. Let a group of skinheads surround a black person in Home, shouting racial slurs and shaking their fists, and the onlookers will often come to the defense of the person being persecuted. But let that same gang taunt a gray-haired avatar for being “an old hag,” and others will just walk away. And if the avatar is overweight, not only can they be openly harassed as “fat and ugly” — some onlookers will even join the rout.


To explore this topic in depth, I used my own avatars in a variety of settings and disguises to attract abusive behavior. In each instance, I changed the appearance of the avatar and then went to a public area in Home where I assumed a passive stance.


In no instance did I make the first move of any kind. No invasion of space, no passing comments, no threatening gestures of any kind. Just being there was enough to bring the haters out for an attack.


OLD AGE:


Some of the younger members of Home treat old age like a contagious disease. All it takes is gray hair and a few wrinkles to bring out the attacks.


In this instance, you can see that my female avatar is slim, physically fit, and reasonably attractive. She was sitting quietly on this rock at the edge of the beach when these two young men approached and started shouting.


“Go away, you old hag!”


“Why don’t you just die now?”


“You don’t belong here – get out of Home and go die.”


One young man (yellow bathing suit in the background) tried to reason with them and get them to leave me alone, but most of the others just watched the entire incident without comment, and the one in the animal costume congratulated the two toughs on how they “owned that old byotch” and “give granny hell.” “run her off the beach.” “kick her.” “f**t in her face” and other encouragements.


Apparently, some of the children and teens in Home assume that gaming was invented within the past few years and it is their domain – adults are not welcome.


I wonder how they would feel if their own mother or grandmother was treated in such a way if she came into Home.


RACE:


I quickly discovered, when dressed in my young black male avatar, that racial attacks are done in groups in Home, singling out the lone target for persecution. I first observed such an attack in the Mall when a group dressed in what appeared to be aluminum foil from head to toe surrounded a young black male and started taunting him. The attackers used programmed dance moves to simulate kicking and hitting the victim while shouting racial slogans too terrible to print in this magazine. Eventually, they had backed him against the upstairs railing and he had no choice but to navigate out of the Mall to escape.


I then interviewed numerous persons of color from a wide cross section of cultures to see if they had had similar experiences. Most of them said they had learned to cope in real life so such actions in Home have little or no affect on them. Their passive resignation still does not make such negative behavior acceptable, however.


I decided to test out the theory on my own. I created a young black male who was well dressed and non-threatening in appearance. (see picture below). I walked into the lower level at the Godfather public space. And, in less than two minutes, a pair of young thugs surrounded me, shouting “FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!”


I tried to reason with them, “I am not here to fight anyone. If you want me to leave, just say so,” but that did not stop their determination to beat up on me. Finally, when I refused to fight back, they turned in disgust and walked away while outlining exactly what they thought of people of my appearance. Again, the overt racism is not fit to quote in here.


WEIGHT:


For this prejudice, it doesn’t matter if the target is male or female, any race, any age: if your avatar appears overweight, many occupants of Home will feel it is their duty to walk up to you and tell you; “You are FAT and ugly,” “U FAT f**k, u shud die,” and similar threats and insults.


This is perplexing to me – a person who is overweight in real life has usually experimented with some kind of diet and/or exercise regimen in an effort to improve their health and appearance. So, why would they voluntarily create an avatar with a weight problem? Why not Photoshop off the extra 50 pounds? Is it possible that they want to torture themselves over their real life appearance? Or that they have reached an attitude of, “To hell with all of them – if they can’t accept me as I am, warts and all, then I don’t need to know them!”


Ironically, when interviewing avatars of ample girth, I discovered some are not overweight in real life! They have altered their appearance in Home to discourage the incessant sexual harassment that takes place in the public areas of Home.


Once again, I put my avatar into a public place (Central Plaza) and waited for the inevitable attack. I stood there passively, admiring the water fountain, until this young man approached me and began the usual litany of insults. His wish for my impending death was hampered by his lack of spelling skills. Apparently, he had dropped out of school long before the English grammar classes – and had dropped head first.


HOMOPHOBES:


It was interesting to see how huge an insult it is to be called “gay” in Home. I have witnessed many nasty altercations that either start with “yur gay” or end with “u r gay”. That is one prejudice I had never been exposed to before. I will admit to being content, happy most of the time, occasionally even blissful, but never gay. So it took a while for me to discover that the attacker is accusing the victim of being a homosexual.


The term seems to be used indiscriminately. One young man at SingStar, cross-dressing as a girl, became belligerent over being called ‘gay’ by another young man who repelled ‘her’ advances. When he/she could not get any response from him, he/she turned on me, the passive bystander, to vent his/her rage. Once again, I was being attacked with dance moves that simulate other actions (see picture below).


As you can see, I am standing quietly, not attempting to defend myself, while the attack took place. The frustration and anger that had built to a boil in that young man was frightening to behold.


The inaccurate assumption made in Home is that, any male who chooses to create a female avatar must be a homosexual on the prowl. Here is a picture of an avatar created by a straight guy, not because he wanted to attract other men, but because he wanted to make some ‘eye candy’ for himself to play with.


REVERSE DISCRIMINATION:


I also met some brave souls who take a perverse delight in inviting attacks from the little cretins. This chap on the beach is only 27 years old, and yet he deliberately created an avatar who looks elderly, overweight, and (if the pink boots and shaved legs are any clue) also a homosexual. And here he stands, passively waiting for the inevitable verbal and physical attacks that have become commonplace in Home.


Bravo, sir! I admire your resolve but I lack your courage. I am scrambling back to the refuge of my socially-acceptable avatar and staying there!


The decision is up to you. Go for the real life appearance – and dare anyone to comment on your physical imperfections, racial characteristics, or other focal points for attack. Or, back to the drawing board to create the next Chace Crawford and Britney Spears clones.


Keara22HI is a retired septuagenarian college professor and extensively published nonfiction author. In addition to being a rabid RPG fan, she can often be found in Home, particularly at Sully’s Bar, the Nepalese Village, or Seaside of Memories. She lives in Hawaii.

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