Saturday, July 26, 2008

Home is where the heart is

Just because I'm an Xbox fanboy doesn't mean I automatically assume anything on other consoles is junk. I take a good, hard look at the pros and cons of each feature, and then I declare it junk. ;)

I've been interested to see where the PlayStation Home feature will go (besides pushed back further and further to an unspecified date in the future). I think it's an interesting idea, trying to capitalize on the popularity of things like Second Life. But just how useful is it? If it were available today on a console that I owned, would I be dying to spend time there? Or would I just see it as getting in the way of my games?

I noticed an article on The Escapist by Susan Arendt, who was treated to a tour of Home at E3 2008. Her conclusion? "I still don't get [it]." From what she described, Home centers around these sponsor-themed areas, which seem to be focused on driving advertising to the players. It does provide a way to meet up with people, play mini-games, get together to launch full games, and so forth. Although personal spaces have been talked about before, Ms. Arendt doesn't mention it in her article. Whether they're still there or not, her report seems to indicate that the focus is on advertising-themed areas. And it all seemed open.

I have to agree with her assessment about "not getting it". I'm not sure it'd be somewhere I'd want to "hang out", either. As it is, I get plenty of "hanging out" in the in-game lobbies of Halo or Call of Duty between games — which is, after all, why I have a game console in the first place, to play games.

So anyway, I just finished a long night of Halo, jumping around from party to party of Geezers, occasionally playing by myself until I found an open party of Geezers, musing about my friends list and how it's filling up again with some new GG members, when suddenly it occurred to me. I suddenly realized exactly what Home should be.

Home should be filled with community-driven sites (houses, buildings, bars, whatever the paradigm is). Perhaps these sites could have memberships, to control the population and protect against "griefers" — how sites are created, who owns them, and who could control who is and is not a member would have to be worked out somehow. Then these spaces would have people who share more than just a passing interest in a particular brand name; they'd have a sense of community, and want to hang out there. Advertising space could still be sold, but it could be open to ads that cater to a much broader demographic than just the "Uncharted Theme House". Give these communities some control over how their house is run, and they'll be more than glad to hang out there.

From my world view: I don't spend a lot of time on the corporate page; I spend my time socializing on the forum. How useful it would be if I could log on to my console, wander into the "Geezer Gamers" house, see who's playing what and who's hanging out waiting to play, and go from there. And if there were bulletin boards where schedules could be posted, or tournament information specific to the house, with an integrated web site for when I wasn't in front of my console...

I think Sony has it backwards. Home shouldn't be advertiser-driven; it should be community-driven.

Of course, now my big hope is that Microsoft sees this, steals the Home idea from Sony and flips it right-way-around for the 360, because that's the console I own. ;)

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