Ultraman

by Phoenix, the HSM team writer

Ultraman, Ultraman

Here he comes from the sky

Ultraman, Ultraman

Watch our hero fly

In a super jet, he comes from a billion miles away

From a distant planet land, comes our hero Ultraman.

Recently, I was hanging out with friends, talking about Home and other things. We got to discussing Japanese anime; anime has become extremely popular today, as has tokusatsu, but that wasn’t the case when we were younger. As we discussed these memories from childhood, I recalled a few and spoke of one: Ultraman.

Ultraman wasn’t very familiar to the group. Only two people seemed to recall the name. Only one thought it familiar; the other spoke of an Ultraman with blonde hair. This wasn’t the Ultraman from my memory, as far as I could recall. He was Japanese. I supposed it was a regional show when I was a kid, assuming that was why it was unfamiliar to them. We had two Japanese shows at that time every afternoon: Ultraman was a tokusatsu series, and Speed Racer was the animated show. This was a time when no one cared that the monster suits were all rubbery and the superhero had noticeable zippers down their backs or that the buildings were clearly cardboard and styrofoam and the same city block fell every week in the monster attack. This was a time when martial arts were amazing (still is) and sci-fi was everywhere (still is).

Ultraman was the story of a Japanese pilot of the Scientific Patrol on an elite team of six visible characters, who was accidentally killed by a UFO collision while on patrol investigating that UFO. The alien inside the craft, in his sadness at the accident acted to return the pilot’s life by merging with him, giving him his life force. Thus, Hiyata was transformed into Ultraman.  He was given a silver capsuled object called a Beta Capsule, to transform whenever there was trouble that he and his team could not handle; he would hold this capsule aloft and transform to a giant in a helmeted silver, red and blue body suit. He used special karate moves and special attacks, the favorite one being the Specium Ray emitting from his right hand when his hands formed a plus sign, to fight all the creatures that threatened earth. Most of these were Godzilla-like creatures. Though Hiyata was merged with the alien life force to become Ultraman, he could only sustain these powers and giant form for a short time. His suit had a warning light beacon on the front in the form of a chest plate, and the beacon would flash when he had only three minutes of power remaining.

I remember rushing home after school to watch this show every day. I can still recall the song and often sing it out of the blue. The original show ran from 1966 to 1967 in Japan.  It was in the ’70s, as a return series dubbed in English, that I was enthralled by its superhero greatness. After that there were several spins off series; some reached America some did not. One such Ultraman spin-off in 1992 was Ultraman: Toward the Future. It was produced in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the show.

Ultraman was a big part of my childhood. I never forgot my daily dose or first foray into the monster hero storyline, Japanese style. Years later, the Power Rangers emerged onto the scene; they were slightly reminiscent of Ultraman, with the suits and karate moves, but not the storyline or magic. Ultraman was a true hero, a true Japanese icon. Ultraman is burned into my memory. He was amazing, exotically handsome (Hiyata) and able to transform and save the world, being the first hero to obtain giant height on TV, well before Transformers ever became a reality.  Granzella’s recent addition to Home content, in the form colorful suited figures of their U-man Unidentified Squadron, brought back these memories: U-man.

Susumu Kurobe (born Takashi Yoshimoto), the actor who played Hiyata in the 1960’s episodes, so loved his portal of Hiyata in the original series that he revisited his role in episode 47 of Ultraman Mebius, Ultraman Brothers, Mega Monsters Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends The Movie, and Ultraman Saga. He has played other characters in some of the other Ultraman series as well as acting alongside his daughter in Ultraman Tiga The Movie 2000. Though he has appeared in numerous other acting portrayals, Ultraman remains a big part of his life.

As I started this article I thought about the generations of American kids that love manga, anime, and sci-fi, and of how much Japanese sub-culture has given and enriched our pop culture. From Japanese myth and hero legend, we arrive at some of our modern storytelling: Godzilla and Ultraman to G-Force for me; Dragonball Z and Inuyasha, One Piece, Full Metal Alchemist, Bleach and Witch Blade and more for my son.  There is a long-lasting legacy these series have created in our culture. The characters live long after childhood, being reinvented in new series and movies, for new generations of waiting fans. I was happy to discover the Ultraman character has become a family of characters all different Ultraman and women carrying on the fight for earth-like Hiyata did.

It would be a blast to be able to see the original series in Home, perhaps via Crackle. It would be fun to see Hiyata and the Science Patrol save the Earth again. I am certain it would be a different experience, but even in my jaded age, I think I would still enjoy those special moves as I did when I was a child.

 

PSN Game Review: Sonic Adventure

Game Review: Sonic Adventure

by BigMak43, the 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 sailboat 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 pricey…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-nose job 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 diligent. 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 didn’t “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.

Password Hashing. What it is and how to make it not suck

The PlayStation Blog recently posted that all our passwords on PSN were not encrypted, causing a crazy amount of panic across the internet. However, yesterday Sony clarified that while they were not encrypted, they were hashed.

“Phew!” was my first thought, but I’m guessing most people were thinking “Eh?” So I put together this description of why password hashing by itself sucks and how to improve it significantly. I’m going to take a guess and assume that the PSN has been using version 2, and will from now on be using version 3.

When you register for websites or online services, you have to set a password to enable yourself to log in again in the future. Your username and password need to be stored in a database so that when you ask to login, the server can verify your details are correct and allow you access.

Let’s look at the basic way of doing this (by the way, the WRONG way) and then work our way up to how most websites (should) be storing your password.

(comic from XKCD.com)

Version 1 – Plain-text

Joe has registered on my website and I have chosen to store his password in “plain-text”. This means I store his password with no other security measures than normal.

So in my database, I store:

Username: Joe
Email: Joe@bloggs.com
Password: 12345

Yes, it’s a bad password. But you’d be surprised how many people use that one. (see top passwords on Gawker leak: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/12/13/the-top-50-gawker-media-passwords/)

Now when Joe tried to log into my website, I look at the password he gave me and compare it to my database. Let’s say Joe gives me his password “12345″ – Hurrah! It matches! I can let him log in and access my lovely website.

Where are the problems with this? First, anybody running the website can easily look into their database and read all the passwords for all their users. Ideally, you want even the admins on the website to not be able to know your password. Secondly, all the security is based on the database. If somebody managed to break into the website, they may be able to break into the database and download all your usernames, emails and passwords.

We need a better form of security.

Version 2 – Password Hashing

Now we are going to secure our passwords with something called “hashing”. We use a mathematical equation called a “hash function” to turn your password into a piece of nonsensical data. There are many different types of hash functions we could use, however they ideally need to have these properties:

  • One-way only
    • This means if we take a password and run it through a hash function, we cannot reverse the process. This means you can’t take the password hash, run it through a modified version of the hash function and get the original password.
    • This requires some complex mathematics to ensure it’s absolutely impossible to find a way of reversing the hash function.
  • No collisions
    • We don’t want two passwords resulting in the same password hash. For example, if “12345″ and “password” resulted in the same password hash, people will be able to login with either of these passwords.
    • This will make more sense after an example.

So, for this example, we’re going to use a famous hash function called MD5 (which has actually been proven to have some rare hash collisions, there are better functions available now, but for this example, we’ll use a popular one).

When Joe registers, instead of storing his password in plain-text, we store the result of the hash function.

Username: Joe
Email: Joe@bloggs.com
Password: 827ccb0eea8a706c4c34a16891f84e7b

You can see that the result of “12345″ is a long piece of text that is impossible to understand.

Now, when Joe tries to log in, we take his password. We run the hash function on the password he gave us and we compare the two hashes instead. If he gives us “12345″, we will run it through the hash function, check the resulting password hash and if it matches the hash we have in the database – Hurrah! We have logged Joe into the site again.

But is this really safe enough?

Note that this time, we never store the plain password. So an admin can’t look through the database and read everyone’s passwords. But, there is still a flaw in this system.

What if we built a massive database of every single possible combination of letters, numbers, and symbols and ran the same MD5 hash function over every possibility and saved the result. It will take a very very long time to calculate, but people have done exactly this. They have created databases where you can type in a password hash, and it will search through their massive databases trying to find the password that originally created it.

This is the problem of everybody using the same hash functions. But there are very few available that are secure and strong enough.

However, there is a solution to this problem too.

Version 3 – Salted hashes

Salting is almost exactly the same as password hashing, but with one minor difference. We add a new piece of data to each user in our database. For this example, I’m going to generate a random piece of text for Joe using a random text generator.

For Joe, we generated a random piece of text “b5h64h0c78FbXWJHKl7DDKKE35d6SO”. We shall call this his “password salt”. We store this alongside his username and email address in the database.

Now, instead of storing the hash of only his password, we also add our salt to his password. Now instead of performing the hash function of “12345″, we perform the hash function of “12345b5h64h0c78FbXWJHKl7DDKKE35d6SO”. Notice it starts with Joe’s normal password, but we add our salt onto the end. This gives us a new password hash to store.

Username: Joe
Email: Joe@bloggs.com
Password: f88378f45a99a13be6f42cefbd80e976
Salt: b5h64h0c78FbXWJHKl7DDKKE35d6SO

So now, we have made Joe’s password very long. It would take way too long for somebody to go through every single possibility up to the point of a 35 letter password because of the salt we added on. This is why it’s vital that websites add the salt to each user, making it impossible to pre-calculate as many password possibilities as possible since every user will have a completely different salt, it will take centuries of computation to get anywhere close to finding the right one.

Recently, Gawker, (a website network including Fleshbot, Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, io9, Kotaku, Jalopnik, and Jezebel) was hacked and their database was compromised. They did not use password salting. Millions of passwords were instantly looked up in large password hash database. It’s hard to know how many other websites out there don’t salt their password hashes.

We’ve glanced over a lot of password security, but I thought it would be helpful to essentially explain how your data is secure. After the recent media hype over hacked systems, people actually suddenly seem to care about their online information. Just wait until people get into your Facebook. If you don’t want people to know about it, don’t put it online.

How can we improve this further? Look up Two-Factor Authentication – banks (and recently Gmail http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/advanced-sign-in-security-for-your.html) implement it and it will keep your account significantly more secure: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-factor_authentication

Cross-posted from my blog, http://www.cubehouse.org/blog/2011/05/02/password-hashing-how-to-make-it-not-suck-a-basic-guide/

 

Meet the Top PSN Trophy Collector in the World

by Stryctnin, the HSM team writer and artist

The PS3 trophy system, which is an accomplishment tracking system, was introduced in the software download version 2.40 in July 2008. There are four different types of trophies, and they are valued from lowest to highest – bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Bronze trophies are usually easily attainable, although some may be tricky, while gold trophies usually require a bit more effort or are harder to obtain. The platinum is earned when all trophies for the particular game have been achieved and unlocked, not including any DLC.

The trophies have a leveling system, much like an RPG where they each contribute points which will increase your overall trophy level. For example, bronze may be only worth 1.5 points, silver is doubled that, gold is doubled from silver, and platinum is doubled from a gold. Levels One through Twelve levels up fast, but once you hit twelve the points for the trophies decrease and it takes you longer and more trophies to rank up.

Usually, games valued at $30 or more upon their first release will have platinum attached to it; however, some downloadable games have been cheaper and have had platinum. The games downloaded from the PSN Store will usually have around ten trophies with the highest being a gold. The disc-based games with platinum will typically have forty to fifty trophies. As of January 2009, every game submitted to Sony had to have trophies.

Before the trophy system, I was a casual gamer playing only the popular titles that I found interesting. I purchased my PS3 along with the game Folklore which had no trophies; when I bought the PS3, trophies didn’t exist. I went through the main storyline of Folklore and beat it with the female character’s story. There were other things to do with the game; it had an online aspect to where you could create a maze that other people could play. You could also play the male character’s storyline, but once I had beaten it that was it. A lot of games had been that way; they had things hidden you could find, or goals you could shoot for or challenges you could try. But once I played through the main storyline and “beat” the game, I was done with it and on to the next one.

When the trophy system started, I was in Home a lot — and by a lot I mean all day and night, hanging with a group of friends and living a fantasy life on my television. This had become an addiction for me and the drama I created and started was like a game to me.  Everything in my real world suffered. I lost friends, I missed special events and memories that cannot be replaced, and I almost lost my marriage.

At this time, when I was asked or talked about the new trophy system, I would always say it was stupid and useless.

Then one day, my friend Jrock316 stopped coming into Home as much as he used to and he began playing games more. I noticed his trophy level going up, and it surpassed mine. Then he received his first platinum on Resident Evil 5. Then I thought, hell, if he can do it, then I can as well.

Sure, by this point I had played a game here or there — enough to have racked up some in the trophy level. In fact, the first trophy I received was Fashion Sense on Little Big Planet. Which probably at the time, I didn’t even know what the hell that thing was when it dinged.

So, now with a personal challenge set in my mind to get more trophies than Jrock, I went for the Resident Evil platinum and eventually achieved it, and I caught up with him in a number of trophies.

My virtual life on Home was still a top priority, and a number of my friends on there mocked me and made fun of my trophy chasing.  So I began to sink back into the world I had created in Home, and once again ignored my wife and others around me.

I don’t remember the exact change in it all — or it may just all be for another story later on — but something happened and now my wife and I work together to trophy hunt. Whatever tedious tasks a game requires that I don’t have the patience to deal with — and, truth be told, I don’t have a lot of patience — she will quietly accomplish it. We have become a tag team with the trophies. Though she has her own separate account we do all gaming on my account. And this trophy collecting has managed to bring us closer together and has healed a broken relationship between us.

Now my trophy level is Seventeen with 2369 trophies and 27 plates of platinum.

I had planned to write this article but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing it, and before I started on it, I researched who had the highest trophy level in the world. It was easy enough information to find.

His username is Hakoom. His trophy level is 49. At the time of writing this, he had 13,240 trophies with 252 plates of platinum.

I sent him a message across the PSN, and truthfully, I wasn’t expecting a response. To my surprise, he did respond and agreed to be interviewed.

Stryctnin: Thank you so much for taking the time and talking to me.  It is truly an honor and privilege for me. First off can I ask you some questions?

Hakoom: Sure. It isn’t a problem at all.

Stryctnin: Where are you from? (I know, it sounds like a noob default question in Home, but I don’t know how else to ask it other than in Spanish).

Hakoom: I am from Bahrain (Middle East).

Stryctnin: How old are you?

Hakoom: I am 27 soon.

Stryctnin: How long have you been gaming?

Hakoom: Since I was five. I started with [the] Atari system and a Gameboy.

Stryctnin: Do you own any other gaming system other than PS3?

Hakoom: Nope, only a PS3, and a PC; if you consider that a gaming system.

Stryctnin: How many games do you own?

Hakoom: I currently only have around 10-15.

Stryctnin: Do you buy or rent your games?

Hakoom: I do lots of things. I buy, borrow, rent, lend etc…

Stryctnin: Hitting platinum in a game can be time-consuming; in some games, it takes days, weeks or even months. How long does it usually take for you to platinum a game?

Hakoom: It depends on the game. One-hundred-hour games take me four to five days if I know what to do — and if I don’t, a week at tops.

Stryctnin: What game has taken you the longest to platinum and how long did it take?

Hakoom: I would have to guess Mortal Kombat 9; it took me over 100 hours to platinum.

Stryctnin: What’s the shortest time for platinum you’ve had?

Hakoom: Mega Mind took me two hours; it’s really easy.

Stryctnin: It almost seems unreal and mind-boggling that you have that many trophies. Do you ever get help with the games or do you do it all on your own?

Hakoom: I let my friends play sometimes when they come over on Thursday or Friday, and I have explained this many times, I cannot just sit there and play while my friends watch, so I have to let them play too. But, that also doesn’t mean I have five people working on my account as some “girls” do.

Stryctnin: Do you remember what the first game you platinumed was? (After I asked this I realized that he has been asked this question so many times that he has become annoyed with it. He posts all his information on his blogspot.

Hakoom: For the first platinum it was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. You can see it here:

http://hakooooom.blogspot.com/2011/01/many-people-have-wondered-what-is-or.html

Stryctnin: What was your first trophy earned?

Hakoom: It was in Super Stardust HD and it was called Hero Of Lave. I just had to complete the Planet Lave level.

Stryctnin: Why did you start trophy hunting?

Hakoom: Because I really had nothing else to play or do. I am a hardcore MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) player, and each one I would join and then dominate. Then some catastrophic event (drama) happens to me and I leave so I don’t have to deal with it anymore.

Stryctnin: Do you compete in any offline tournaments such as Street Fighter etc?

Hakoom: No, I don’t. I play games at home mostly.

Stryctnin: What game has given you the most trouble in completing?

Hakoom: There are several, but Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, Wipeout HD and Street Fighter 4 were very troublesome. Street Fighter because of the challenges; you have to be good at making the combos for you to get them.

Stryctnin: What was the easiest game you ever platinumed?

Hakoom: Definitely Mega Mind. It took me only two hours to complete.

Stryctnin: Has there ever been a game that you just couldn’t beat and you gave up on getting the platinum?

Hakoom: Nope, I don’t give up on any game. I just delay them and put them off until my mood returns for them.

Stryctnin: Now, can you list the top ten easiest games to platinum in your opinion. They don’t have to be in any order.

Hakoom: Of course the first one I would name is Mega MindThen Hannah Montana, Ice Age, Up, Fritz Chess, Ben 10, Monopoly Streets, Where the Wild Things Are, Spare Parts and The Owls of Ga’Hoole. If you want to see a complete list of easy platinum you can visit this page :

http://hakooooom.blogspot.com/p/easy-platinums.html

Stryctnin: What’s your favorite game or games ever?

Hakoom:  All are PS3 games. I love God of war 3, Metal Gear Solid 4, Killzone 3 and Uncharted 2.

Stryctnin: Yeah I really liked Uncharted 2, although I never got a chance to platinum it; I didn’t feel like playing through it again, besides, I really hated the final boss. I’m looking forward to the third installment of this title though. What games are you looking forward to coming out this year?

Hakoom: There are many great games coming out this year, but I’m really looking forward to Uncharted 3 as well.  Also, Infamous 2, Last Guardian, Battlefield Bad Company 3, Batman Arkham City and Darksiders 2.

Stryctnin: What are your strengths in gaming?

Hakoom: I consider myself to be a strong player in many types of games but I think I have an extra special knack for FPS (First Person Shooters), RTS (Real Time Strategies) and TPS (Third Person Shooters). And, since I have a lot of patience I can complete many of them even when they are very tough.

Stryctnin: Yes, patience is certainly a key factor in earning trophies, which makes it hard for me sometimes because I lack patience, especially when I get tired or hungry. So what do you consider to be your weak points in gaming?

Hakoom: My weaknesses are certain types of sports games and musical games that require instruments like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. If it’s not the normal controller then I have difficulty.

Stryctnin: What games are you currently working on?

Hakoom: LA Noire, Top Spin 4, FIFA 11, Atelier Rorona, Dead Space 2 (German Edition) and The Sims 3. Plus I have a few more games I’m waiting on that will arrive from overseas sent by supporters and friends.

Stryctnin: What are your favorite genre of games?

Hakoom: RPG/FPS/RTS

Stryctnin: Have you written any trophy guides or walkthroughs?

Hakoom: Yes, I wrote two trophy guides back when I was at the PS3trophies.org website. Then I started my own blog and I review every game I plat in short form like a mini roadmap for each game.

Stryctnin: What would you like to say to the people who think trophy collecting is a waste of time and ruins gameplay?

Hakoom: Everything is a waste of time. Everyone should be doing something else to enjoy his or her own life. Some people collect baseball cards. And some people will say, “that’s such a waste of time and money.” Is it a waste of time? No. No, it isn’t, as long as he is enjoying what he is doing. What I think of as a waste of time are people who just sit at coffee shops or bars and try to hit on girls and get drunk, those are guys with no life. Yes, the trophy system can ruin gameplay if the trophies aren’t designed or programmed correctly, but if they are then it should be no problem.

Stryctnin: How does it feel to be the number one trophy leader in the world?

Hakoom: It’s my way of dominating every game I play. Trophies, MMOs or anything else I play, since online gaming has opened I have always been on top. I have been number one since I had 65 plates of platinum, and that’s been like two years ago. Now, I am still number one with a huge platinum lead. My feelings are the same though because I play for myself and to satisfy myself only.

Stryctnin: Anything else you would like to add?

Hakoom: Thank you all for your support and thanks to all who send me games from overseas. Always make a thorough background check on a trophy hunter before accusing him of anything. Being the top trophy hunter on the PS3 system and maintaining that for more than two years isn’t easy. For more information or if you want to speak with me directly, then add me on the following pages:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hakoom/361497360579

https://www.facebook.com/Hakooooom

And this is my blog where I review things:

http://hakooooom.blogspot.com/

Also, my youtube channel where I show my trophies and plats:

http://www.youtube.com/user/gotchstyle

——–

In closing, I would like to say that many people have tried to take the number one spot from Hakoom several times, and some have actually passed him. The thing is, however, that the ones that passed him were found by Sony to have hacked or modified their PS3s and were removed from the leaderboard and banned. Also, the competition is so high in the top of the leaderboard that some accounts have numerous people playing on it to obtain trophies.

All in all, games are meant to be played for fun. If you own a game and you enjoy playing it, then the trophy system may help you enjoy your game more. It will allow you to get your money’s worth by searching out items that are hidden, picking up every different gun available and getting a headshot with it or talking with that strange looking old man to receive a hidden extra quest. And, finally accomplishing that goal and hearing that “ding” of the trophy unlocking just feels good.

However, some games that are there just to go after the trophies and are not fun playing at all; now that can become a grueling task and takes the fun away from gaming. I know because I’ve rented some pretty crappy games from GameFly only to get so annoyed with it to send it back. If I don’t want to play it then I’m not going to play it, and if I’m not having fun with it then there’s no need to do it. Trophies do not make the game, but in a good game, they give added value to the gameplay itself.

 

Initialisms and Home-isms: A Glossary

by Terra_Cide, HSM copy editor

For those of you who didn’t see the post over at Engadget last month, the Oxford English Dictionary – the granddaddy of all that is English-language based – has decided to add well-known initialisms OMG, LOL and FYI, as well as IMHO and BFF onto their hallowed pages. They have also added ♥ – not the <3 emoticon, but the actual graphics – as well.

Hide your wife and hide your kids, folks. The apocalypse is nigh.

About this same time, Norse, our intrepid Editor-In-Chief, and I had a conversation on the phone. This happened to take place before I made my weekly pilgrimage over to Engadget to get my geek-fix.

“You know what would be a great idea for an article?” He enthused. “A compilation of all the initialisms and phrases of text-speak that are common to Home, so that the average, literate person who goes online there has a vague idea as to what’s being said. I was going to do it, but you know what, I think you’d be great at it!”

And then he scampered off to go do whatever it is Norsemen in Hawaii do.

Thanks, Norse, and to quote some Stealers Wheel with regards to my opinion on the matter, “Clowns to the left of me/Jokers to the right/ Here I am/ Stuck in the middle with you.”

Now then, since I’ve been tasked to compile all these oh-so-wonderful initialisms, phrases, abbreviations, and general Home-isms, we’re going to do this right. No sense in providing you, the intelligent HomeStation Magazine reader, a half-baked reference guide to decipher all the things you see the average knuckle-dragger in Central Plaza type on a daily basis. No sir, this is going to be some serious business here.

So! Without any further pomp and prelude, I give you HSM’s Official Home Guide to Initialisms, Phrases, and Other Things That Need Translation™.

Disclaimer: The author and the staff of HSM are not responsible if your feelings get butt-hurt in the event of reading this article. Intended for entertainment purposes only.

And for you, that smug one who will no doubt respond in the comments that one was missed: we’re well aware of the chance of that happening. You try compiling all of these bloody things by yourself.

If you cannot comprehend this, or lack the capacity to grow a sense of humor, please, turn off the computer and step away from the Internet. For good. Thank you, and this concludes our Public Safety Announcement. Normal service shall now resume.

AFK – A part of the “BRB” family, it simply explains that the person is, will be, or has been “Away From Keyboard.” I am personally ashamed to admit that this one took me a few viewings to actually get. And I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a plastic spork than ask what an internet initialism means. I have more important things to do with my time. Like cataloging aforementioned initialisms. Right…moving on…

ATM – Stands for “At The Moment” and is pretty straightforward. It’s present tense and used when describing something “in the now.” Don’t ask it for money, though; it’s not that kind of ATM.

BBL – Used for when you’re going to be away much longer than a moment or two, “Be Back Later” is what most people say when they’re going to go game, or go offline and do something else, but will return at a later time that day. (I bet there were a few of you who thought it meant something dirty, didn’t you? Suckers.)

BFF – Popularized by the vapid Paris Hilton set, “Best Friends Forever” is what one uses to describe the person closest to them that isn’t thought of in a romantic manner. Depending on the vapidness of the individual, this title may be bestowed upon a different person on a daily (or even hourly) basis. So much for the “forever” part.

BRB – Now, normally, this stands for “Be Right Back,” commonly used whenever someone needs to get up, grab a snack or drink, respond to a telephone/nature call, or what have you. But what I’ve discovered is that what initially starts out as a simple get up and go get /do something task ends up being a series of diversions and detours worthy of Billy from The Family Circus. You get up to go grab the drink, but before you do, you decide to take that bathroom break so you don’t have to get up later, then the phone rings or the dog wants out, then you get that drink and you figure that well, hey, since you’re up already, might as well grab a snack while you’re at it. You do eventually get back, just not “right back.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this homage to one of the Editor’s favorite picture memes.

Facepalm, or *facepalm* – As you all should know by now, our Home avatars have pre-programmed gestures you can access. From “bow” to “over here!” you can express your emotions through the actions you choose to input through your avatar. The emotion that they forgot to program an expression for is disgust. This is where the typing of “facepalm” comes in. Until Sony corrects this egregious error, you will find “facepalm” habitually typed above my avatar.

FFS – Usually typed in a moment of irritation and/or exasperation, and sometimes preceded with “Oh,” this initialism goes well with a facepalm. There is no real clean alternative to the original initialism, so I’ll just come out with it. It stands for “For F—- Sake.”

FYI – The usage of this initialism predates the Internet itself by a good decade at least, and now has become so common that your parents probably know what it means. Do I really need to spell it out? It is what the whole subject of this article is about – for your information. Oops, see, I did it anyway.

Epic – Grandiose, on a large scale. Whether it’s a win or a fail, you can bet it’s a big one when it’s preceded with this word.

FML – The antonym of “FTW” (see below), this initialism stands for “F— My Life” or, if you object to vulgarity in your initialisms you can make it mean “For My Loss.” Often seen used by people who are bemoaning something about their life. See also: “Suck it up.”

FTW, FTMFW – Random bit of trivia about me: I’ve always wanted a license plate that reads “FTW WTF” or “WTF FTW.” I think it’d be quite cool, don’t you? FTW simply stands for “For The Win” and FTMFW is just the same thing, but with an expletive for added emphasis.

Got pics? Got cam? Got mic? – The Holy Trinity of Questions Asked That Should Never Be Asked. The inquisitor is usually new to Home, and/or lacks a rudimentary personality. Either way, making these inquiries of someone you’ve only been talking to for less than five minutes – even in the compressed time-feel of Home – is like asking to see someone you just met in real life if you could see their underwear. Whatever gristly punishment you get meted out to you after asking one of these questions will be well-deserved.

GTFO – Stands for “Get The F— Out” and used to express indignation towards stupidity, incompetence, or both. Or even to express rejection of something that is just unwelcome.

Hella – Nothing screams “I’m a douchebag!” more than using this term, which I’m lead to believe means “very” or “lots of.” A derivative of “hell of a lot.” I could put a South Park reference in here, but I can’t be bothered.

IDK – When you don’t know the answer to a question, this initialism, which stands for “I Don’t Know” will come in handy. Or if you just get sick and tired of answering questions, you can use it then, too. Don’t worry, we won’t tell.

IMO, IMHO – When people don’t want their words misconstrued as “the truth” but merely the opinion it is, they’ll tack on “In My (Humble) Opinion” either before or after their statements. It’s been my experience, however, that the ones who add in the word “humble” rarely are.

IKR – Initialism for the valley girl phrase, “I Know, Right?” popularized by Lindsay Lohan in the movie Mean Girls. Do you feel a bit dirty for using an initialism made well-known by a drug addict? I hope you do.

LOL – Originally intending to mean “Laugh Out Loud,” this long-standing member of the Internet lexicon now merely stands for “I have nothing witty and/or intelligent to contribute to further this conversation along. However, if I say nothing, you’ll probably get offended, so I’ll do the bare minimum to stroke your ego and let you know I was paying attention.”  Some of the more Internet-savvy Home denizens who like show off said savvy-ness (whether it be real or self-proclaimed) will substitute this with ”lulz.”

LOL-Speak – Popularized by the now famous “I Can Haz Cheezburger” network of websites, it’s what happens when you let the “Hooked on Phonics” Generation go to the extreme. Often a typing method one uses to sound cute but is only truly effective if there are kittens present.

LMAO – The user of this acronym – which stands for “Laughing My A** Off” – usually is, in fact, laughing at the comment made or scene witnessed, unlike the use of LOL.

NE1, Some1 – A piece of text-speak so annoying, it deserves its own entry. Simply put, it’s a lame way of saying “anyone” or “someone.”

No – Ranking right up there with your/you’re and there/their/they’re in the list of  Most Annoying but Common Misspellings, chances are the typist is really trying to say “know.” Yes, you may *facepalm* now.

N00b, Newb, Nub – Corrupted forms of the word “newbie.” No matter which way you spell it, it all means the same thing. The person who is the object of this word is new to the environment they are in, or at the very least acts the part.

OMG, OMFG – “Oh My God” or “Oh My F-ing God” Pretty much the default reply when one reads or witnesses something that is beyond the normal realms of stupidity, or they just can’t quite wrap their head around something. Which in Home, can be quite often.

OMGWTFBBQ – Pure parody of all acronyms and initialisms. Used often when mocking people who use initialisms or text-speak too much. I like this one quite a lot, for obvious reasons.

Orly, O Rly, Rly – Shortened from the phrase, “Oh, really” and usually used in a sarcastic manner, this phrase has its beginnings in the early online gaming community. Example:

All your base belongs to us. 
ORLY?

Plz Kthx – A truncated version of “please, okay, thanks” which is sometimes even further shortened down to “kthx.”

Pwn, Pwnd, Pwned – A corrupted form of “owned” where the author accidentally types a “p” where the “o” should be, this elder statesman of the Internet lexicon dates back to the earliest days of online gaming, LAN parties and such (“I PWND J00, F00!!” as an example of early internet-isms). I personally have been known to actually utter this one out loud in a non-sequitur fashion. Try it some time – it’s quite fun!

ROFL – “Rolling On the Floor Laughing” This is typically used with the same intention as LMAO but is reserved for those moments when events have become so funny, that the act of typing has been reduced to “jkahgdlf” as a result, and lets all parties know that normal service will resume, after you’ve regained your faculties.

Shawty – A little sleuthing on Urban Dictionary tells me that this, erm, “word” has its origins in Atlanta, GA. Regardless of where it comes from, nothing makes me want to head-butt somebody in the chest more than being called this. I don’t care if you think it’s a compliment. I don’t care if you approve of the appearance of my pixels. It sounds dumb. Stop saying it. (And at 5′ 8″ I’m hardly short, for a female.)

SMH – An initialism that is almost the equivalent of a facepalm, “Shake My Head” is often used in reaction to an observed act or a story told that makes you feel as if you lost a brain cell just for witnessing/hearing it. When someone uses “SMH” it is never a good thing.

STFU –  When used in conjunction with “GTFO” (mentioned above), you can practically create a whole sentence with just initials. I find that, for the most part, high emotion, low intelligent young males are constantly telling each other to “Shut The F— Up” for one reason or another. Must be a guy thing.

Teh – Originally a corruption of the word “the” where the typist, in an effort to be fast, switches the order of the “h” and the “e” around. Nowadays commonly seen in LOL-speak as a deliberate way of typing cute.

Text-Speak, or Txt Spk – More annoying than LOL-speak, this is an alpha-numeric, word shortening form of typing that is commonly used when you are limited for space, or typing from a phone. Examples of this would be “U2″ (“you too,” not the band; Bono would not approve) or using the number 4 instead of typing “for”. Somehow, this method of writing has also leaked into arenas, such as Home, where people actually do have access to a keyboard, but can’t be bothered to actually use it as intended. As a result, the user typically comes off as sounding like an idiot, whether or not they really are.

TMI – Someone going into just a little too much detail for your tastes? Use this initialism, which stands for “Too Much Information.” Because sometimes, knowledge isn’t power; it’s just disturbing.

TTYL – An initialism used in departing, meaning “Talk To You Later” where later can mean later that day, or tomorrow, or next week. May or may not be true.

U – For some reason that I haven’t quite yet discovered, people think that just because “I” is considered a word, “u” should be as well. It isn’t. Learn to spell. Thank you (notice: it’s “y-o-u”).

U Hott – Oh FFS (see what I did there?), do you really think that I’m going to be flattered that you’re getting turned on by my pixels? If you haven’t noticed, anyone can look like a supermodel on Home. Get over it, and start talking like a moderately intelligent human being if you hope to get a girl on your friend’s list.

Ur – No, this is not in reference to the ancient Sumerian city-state. The author of such utterance is not bright enough to know that in the first place. This is someone’s feeble attempt at shortening the already short word “your.” Or perhaps “you’re.” Or they didn’t know which spelling they needed in the context they were using it in and decided to use the coward’s way out. My brain hurts now. Bottom line, the person’s just plain lazy.

Wat – Again, sorry, but no, this does not refer to a temple in southeast Asia. Once more, the knowledge of such things involves having more IQ points than the author of such a comment appears to possess. Now, the Urban Dictionary describes this as, “the only proper response to something that makes absolutely no sense,” and while this may be true, it does not excuse the need to drop the “h” you smeg for brains, walking vegetable.

Wats Gud, Wats Gud Ma – Before I can begin to define this one, I must first control the homicidal urges that the mere sight of these two phrases on Home stir within me.

(Takes a few deep breaths)

Seriously, there few things online that actually inspire me to think about taking such extreme actions, like tracking them via their IP address and promising them bodily harm – pedophiles, for example – but those two phrases are right up there. There’s so much laziness contained in these two phrases I don’t even know where to begin.

Quite frankly, if you don’t respond to someone uttering such displays of willful illiteracy, I don’t blame you; it’s all gibberish anyway. As for what goes through my mind when some complete stranger calls me “ma” (must… control… fist… of death…), I will say this. Yes, I am a mother. No, my child has not called me “ma” and I doubt he ever will. I have not given birth to you, fed you or wiped your bottom, therefore you never – ever – have the right to call me “ma” and if I were your mother, I’d be embarrassed to know my offspring was that dumb. And if I was your mother and I caught you addressing others bearing a female resemblance in such a manner, you can be damned sure I’d slap that controller out of your hand and throw your wannabe ghetto self in summer school faster than you could even type “wats gud” ever again.

*Ahem* now then, to continue.

W00t, Wewt – Nice bit of trivia here: “Woot” originated from a truncated expression common among players of the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing game for “Wow, loot!” The Internet and video game cultures took off with it, and now is just a general term for excitement or great success. I’d embed Stephen Lynch’s song to “D&D” here, but it’s not very family friendly. You’re better off YouTubing it yourself. (I recommend the 4:21 version – the three-part harmony that starts at 3:26 is pretty awesome.)

Where U From? – Ladies, tell me if you had a nickel for every time someone on Home asked you this question, would you have a six-figure (or more) bank account by now, and own every single thing worth owning in Home? I know I would. It’s either this or the present “Where are you from?” and both get rewarded with “Central Plaza” as a reply. If that is, I feel like replying.

W/R/T/ – “With Regards To.” Not very popular as of yet, but is slowly rising in the public’s awareness. What, you expected something funny to be tacked on to this entry as well? I can’t make all of these things amusing, you know.

WTF – Have I mentioned my obsession with obtaining an “FTW WTF” or “WTF FTW” license plate yet? What? Palindromes are sexy! Don’t look at me like that. Blame They Might Be Giants for my predilection. Actually, I bet this initialism ran through your mind just now as you were reading all that. In fact, it’s probably popped up on more than one occasion whilst reading this article. It’s common for anyone, who, upon stumbling onto a scene (or what have you) that they have no clue as to what is going on, to utter “What the fudge.” Okay, so no, the “f” does not stand for “fudge” – I just can’t drop the f-bomb in here (and there’s plenty of these initialisms with that word in them as it is), and I presume that the HSM readership is savvy enough to know what I mean by now. If you’re not, well, then, sucks to be you.

WTH – Same as with “WTF” but with the milder “hell” or “heck” substituted in. For the people who don’t like to swear. It wouldn’t make much sense if it substituted “WTF” in a “WTF FTW” license plate though.

XOXOXO – A common message or conversation ender, signifying affection, usually employed by pubescent girls, or males pretending to be them. Why would a guy pretend to be a teenaged girl? So they can experience sitting down with their legs crossed without pain? How the heck should I know?

ZOMG – The corrupted form of OMG, where the typist hits the “z” key instead of the intended “shift” key. Nowadays, people actually type this on purpose. No, I’m not making this up.

“!!!1″ and variations – When someone is so emphatic with regards to something, they’re still pressing the one key, long after they’ve stopped holding down the shift key to type an exclamation point. Usually mocked these days by people actually typing, “!!!one!” or “!!!eleven!!”

That should cover it. I think I’ve sufficiently warped enough brain cells – thanks to spending inordinate amounts of time on Urban Dictionary and Something Awful doing research for this piece – to say I’ve seriously taken one for the team. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to fix myself a Martini of Death in hopes of purging the sights I’ve seen and returning my brain back to (relative) normal.

Follow Up: Video Game Limits Struck Down by Supreme Court in California Case

by Johneboy1970, HSM guest contributor

Greetings HSM readers!

Here’s my follow up article to Government Oversight in Video Games: Free Speech or Obscenity? which contains the decision reached by the SCOTUS this week.

The Supreme Court has decided, in a 7-2 opinion, that the State of California’s passage of a law banning the sale of video games to minors was unconstitutional.

In the majority opinion, filed by Justice Antonin Scalia, it was decided that the Act does not comport with the First Amendment, which gives video games the legal precedence and allows them to be considered as protected free speech in future cases.

According to Justice Scalia, “Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And the basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary” with a new and different communication medium.”

Justice Antonin Scalia

He went on to add, “The most basic principle — that government lacks the power to restrict expression because of its message, ideas, subject matter, or content, is subject to a few limited exceptions for historically unprotected speech, such as obscenity, incitement, and fighting words. But a legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test.”

As mentioned in my previous article, the case (Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association), came out of the California courts when the state government decided to pursue the authority to regulate the sales of video games. The law that the state had proposed would ban the sale of “adult” video games to minors, with the penalty being a fine of up to one thousand dollars. The legal definition of violent games, according to the suit, would be games, “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being…in a way that is patently offensive… appeals to minors’ deviant or morbid interests…and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

Proponents of the law claimed that such government oversight was necessary to protect children and parents from the sex and violence in some video games, while opponents pointed out that the industry was already doing a fair job regulating itself and needed no further government oversight, and that the decision on what games children play ultimately reside with the parent – not with the state.

The obvious thrust of this decision is that video game sales will continue to be self-regulated, much in the same way that movies and video rentals are. But, more importantly perhaps, games can now be considered in the same category of other mediums of free expression which are protected under the First Amendment, such as books, film, art, and poetry. This not only legitimizes games and gaming as a whole, but also gives the medium a legal leg to stand on in all future cases concerning their sale and, more importantly, their content.

But the decision only takes video games into account. Where do virtual worlds or MMO’s, like PlayStation Home, fit into the ruling? According to at least one Justice, they may not.

In a separate filing, Justice Samuel Alito (who concurred with the ruling) warned the Court to “proceed with caution,” noting that: “We should take into account the possibility that developing technology may have important societal implications that will become apparent only with time.”

While the “gaming as free speech” question has been answered, Justice Alito has left the door open to further decisions concerning gaming-related media and its use and impact on society. While no cases concerning virtual worlds are currently in the docket, only time will tell if new cases will arise concerning the use of such services.

(Readers, how do you feel about this ruling? Are the established guidelines and ESRB ratings sufficient enough, or do you think the industry itself needs to step up, in order to prevent further risks of government intrusion? Do you think this ruling will make the gaming industry feel as if they can create and sell whatever games they want, regardless of content? And what effect do you think this ruling will have on Home – if any effect at all – in the future? State your opinions in the comments below, and remember, keep it civil, not only in regards to the topic at hand but to each other as well.)

 

A Second Look at the LucasArts Cantina

by FEMAELSTROM, HSM team writer

When I first walked into Home I was doubly lost, like a blind man in the dark. I searched the navigator to see what this brave new world held for me; there was indeed a vast array of places to go, but the first one that really stood out and made my mind jump to attention was the LucasArts Creature Cantina.

I admit I am a massive Star Wars fan. I love the series and have since its debut in 1977. Now I had the chance to walk the famed cavernous space that is the Mos Eisley Creature Cantina. The joyous thoughts of walking in this place rattled like coins in a clothes dryer and made this the first place I went when I arrived.

You enter at a long, sand-colored hallway; this is a great spawn point. It gives one the feeling of having just walked in off the streets of the Tatooine city for a break and a drink. The walls are lined with pictures of the famed Star Wars characters in the promotion of the BluRay box set. As you round the hall, you find the entirety of the place in eyeshot, and what a sci-fi fan’s feast it is. To your right is a machine that is plastered to the wall with a blue light fixture in it. This is cool because this is right out of the movie. Watch your copy and you will see that it is there. On the left is a white C-3P0 head dismembered and adorning a sign that reads, as the movie states, “No Droids Allowed”.

Then you enter the actual place. The first thing you see is a long curved bar with an NPC bartender.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people stand there and ask for Jawa Juice like it’s code for something greater or more sinister. There have been a few times when I have seen people talk to the bartender as though it is a person. My tactics to save the new person the trouble is to either private-message them or walk up and joke on how I’ve been on a long time and he’s never even moved from that place. He is never going to respond, not in a million light years. Yes, supposedly there were times when someone from the dev team would bring the bartender to life and interact with the community, but I never saw it.

So, yeah, I figure it spares them the rancor of those who will mock new arrivals still adorned in the familiar blue Home logo shirt. Although to be fair, I rarely have seen such venom fired at any particular group while in the Cantina. For the most part, people here tend to not be overly aggressive. I basically think that this is such a target-specific place that either you love the franchise and want to go to have fun, or you are one who does not care for it and would tend to stay away, save the trolls who go just to pester people.

Han shot first.

The bar is a long one — long enough to hold a good amount of people all adorned in various Star Wars or sci-fi attire. One side faces a set of dark alcoves; perhaps one of these is where Han Solo fired (first) on Greedo. This area is great because one can go and simply sit and chat with friends on what is the quieter side of the bar. There is a caution here for new people, though: in the last alcove, there is a set of red and blue lights on the wall. Many people who know the trick will try it on the new patrons. The ‘trick’ is this: they try to convince an unsuspecting person that running in between the red and blue lights will allow you to go outside the cantina or some fantastic promise like that. Truth is that the victim will simply get stuck between a chair and a table, forcing the victim to leave the Cantina and thus return.

Not the worst thing that can happen, granted, but annoying and rude to new Home friends.

Tucked into one corner is a commerce point. This is a very well thought-out commerce point because it is set into the décor as a separate alcove. Some places have obvious commerce points that are simply a floating blue shopping bag icon on a kiosk. This actually blends in quite well to its’ surroundings and is stocked with a good amount of LucasArts items from the Star Wars franchise as well as the Indiana Jones franchise and Monkey Island.

Coming back around the bar, there is a large, dark room. It seems seedy until you realize that nobody really occupies that place. It has a large screen promoting the aforementioned Star Wars HD movies. The short video is entertaining for the first few times, but the zing quickly fades after a few rotations. I walk the place often and rarely see anyone there, but it has that darkness that seems right for those below the law to do their evil workings, like Sith Lords or bounty hunters.

Leaving the video screen room, there is a small alcove that holds some four or so booths. These are occupied at a constant stream and I myself have had many a fun day and night there. And now, the centerpiece of what is the pinnacle of geekdom in this wonderful place. One term summarizes this iconic centerpiece, and that is:

Figin D’an and the Modal Nodes.

You know them, you love them and they play 24/7 just for you.

The Creature Cantina band. The iconic bubble-headed band that plays far out and wacky instruments from a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, playing for your enjoyment. They are NPCs, but excellent ones. They do what every band should do: play no matter what the people around them do. They play all the famous songs, and the dance floor in front of them — through small — seems to hold just enough people and make it feel crowded and happily active.

Though it is now an older place in the frontier that is Home, it’s still a great place to hang out with friends and even find a few new ones that share the mutual love of all things sci-fi and fantasy. There are a few drawbacks to voice, but nothing that should keep anybody away. There is a curtain that doesn’t allow you entrance into a room that has been under construction for so long it seems that it will never be done, likely due to budget cutbacks or somesuch.

There are no rewards here, and no games or activities to entertain you as Sodium has at its hub in the bartending game. Like any other place, the music gets repetitive after a while, but that’s ok when you sit and indulge in that ‘Jawa juice’ and watch the swarms of Stormtroopers and Boba Fetts standing around adding to a rich flavor that helps this virtual world become a little bit more real.

In the end, all anybody can measure space by is whether or not you want to go there; whether or not you like it enough to hang out there and find the fun in it. I personally have it on my favorites list, and still, enjoy it. Business has slowed since the advent of the Hub, but there are always new people coming and going, and some people that are veterans there. Being void of games or activities, this space still stands out as a great destination to just hang out in and let the Force be with you. Enjoy that Jawa juice!

A Japanese in the Land of the Gaijin

by LiLBlueEyes, the HSM special guest contributor

GAIJIN – That’s the Japanese word for outsider or foreigner. Literally, it translates to “outside person.”

So what happens when a Japanese enters the world of the gaijin? It’s fairly well known by now that there are Americans and others who have Japanese Home accounts but very rarely do we see Japanese citizens visit the other Home regions.

I would like to introduce you to Tomo; he’s a former Professor of Physics at the University of Tokyo who now works for the more lucrative private sector. He also frequents North America Home.

LBE – When did you first join Home?

Tomo – Early 2009. Some of my coworkers spoke of a new application on the Sony game console; I purchased a PS3 and found the service to be most enjoyable.

LBE – You mean to tell me you’re Japanese and you didn’t have a PS3?

Tomo – I played video games as a child – this is Japan and everyone had Nintendo – but when I became [an] adult, I did not see any advantage to playing video games, so I no longer played them.

LBE – Well, welcome back to the world of video gaming.

Tomo – Thank you!

LBE – So tell me: how did you come to find USA Home?

Tomo – I began to see avatars speaking English in Japan Home; not only English but other languages. Most Japanese do not speak English or other languages. My English was acceptable, so I approached one of the foreigners and asked them how they came to be in Japan Home.

LBE – What did you think of these foreigners?

Too – Many of my friends did not like having foreigners in Japan Home, [but] I was not disturbed by it. There were many rude guys in the beginning, but now most have come to understand Japanese culture and behave more appropriately.

LBE – You seem to spend a lot of time in USA Home; why?

Tomo – Japan has a limited selection; USA has many apartments that I enjoy buying, [and] I also find the American culture most interesting. There are many impulsive and funny American people – in Japan, people are traditional and orderly.

LBE – What are some of the things you don’t like about USA Home?

Tomo – I may never come [to] understand why so many in USA Home will like to argue. I find it to be crude; I sometimes will become embarrassed for the people involved. Also, the scrutiny of avatars in USA Home is confusing. In Japan Home, I can wear whatever I wish and it matters to no one. But if I dress in a female avatar in USA Home, I will receive a wide spectrum of responses; if I wear bright male clothing, I am called homosexual, if I wear the funny costume I am called [a] loser – so many unnecessary labels.

LBE – How do you handle the aggressive nature of USA Home?

Tomo – I do not take anything personally, so I do not involve [myself] in the drama.

LBE – What do you like best about Home in general?

Tomo – I like that when you enter Home it is the same, but it is never the same. I’m sorry; I don’t know the English word for the meaning.

LBE – Unpredictable or spontaneous.

Tomo – Yes; I have now confirmed the meaning using my dictionary.

LBE – Do you use a dictionary a lot while in USA Home?

Tomo – People from the US speak in different colloquialisms. Someone from the East Coast will speak different words and meanings then someone from the South. I can understand most of what is said, but it is the slang that confuses me the most. Slang words I cannot find in the English to Japanese dictionary.

LBE – I have some bad news for you. Americans are always inventing new words and phrases.

Tomo – I will continue to see if my American friends laugh or argue when they say these unknown slang words, and then I will act accordingly.

LBE – Do you ever get involved in your friends’ drama? You said you avoid drama. But with your friends, I am sure you have to pick a side once in a while?

Tomo – Sometimes it is unavoidable for me to put my two pennies into the situation between friends. I do not wish to gossip about my friends, though; you may ask another question, please.

LBE – Fair enough; where do you see PlayStation Home in its development in a year from now?

Tomo – There will be new advances in mini-games and in our avatars, but the regions will remain separated.

LBE – So basically the regions will still be gaijin or strangers to one another?

Tomo – It is Sony’s will, but the people [also] have a will, and thus will continue to reach each other.

LBE – Straight up, and thank you for your time.

Tomo – I know that slang meaning, and you are welcome.

It was an absolute pleasure to interview Tomo, and I was fascinated by his viewpoint of American behavior and our version of Home. The cross-cultural communication — the differences in social mores and behavior patterns — is fascinating. And, just as we often think the grass is greener on the other side, it’s worth noting that people in other Home regions think the same of us.