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My Life In Home, Vol. 2 -- The Chat Room Theory

pklepek
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Posted January 28, 2010 - By pklepek

My Life In Home, Vol. 2 -- The Chat Room Theory

I did not predict the overwhelming response to the first My Life In Home, a column following my visits to PlayStation 3's Home. There's a sizable portion of the G4 audience who are happy with the virtual world Sony's built with Home, open beta or not. The amount of kickback from readers upset over my list of complaints about the service struck a chord. Many were upset because I seemed to be insulting a place they enjoy going to on a day-to-day basis, a place many of them actually do call "home."

Despite the admittedly negative tone, I was not declaring Home a failure -- not that it would matter if I had: There are thousands of people flocking to Home, including G4 readers, so there's something there. The whole reason I started My Life In Home was to gain a better understanding of what's drawing them back. Readers left me dozens of great comments with suggestions on what makes Home interesting to them and I plan to explore many of those over time.

My latest adventure into Home thankfully did not start with a new patch to download or a lengthy video buffering, but by standing idle in various Home spaces and watching the conversations unfold.

Here's a small sample of people were talking about in Home:

  • Two women discussing their c-sections and the difficulties of being able to move objects from room-to-room without a man in the house. "I didn't have kids before," said one woman.
  • A guy was upset no one was paying attention to the costumes he'd paid for.
  • Someone was pissed at people who don't want custom themes on their PS3.
  • A girl didn't want to admit how old (or young?) she was in public.

You'll notice not a single conversation highlighted above mentioned video games. There were allusions to the PlayStation 3, but I spent a whole hour just wandering from area to area within Home and watching conversations unfold. Not a single dialogue contained a noteworthy discussion about video games. Plus, this was all happening within the video game-related Home spaces, too, easily the most populated sections around Home. The observations underscored a point I made at the end of my last column, which proposed a theory that people treat Home as a reimagining of the old school chat room.

My Life In Home, Vol. 2 -- The Chat Room Theory Chat rooms don't exist anymore, replaced by nearly (but not quite) real-time message boards and personalized instant messaging. There are few places on the Internet to just interact with a random set of strangers with a shared understanding of a topic in a real-time environment. Home seems to provide that. Observing conversations in Home took me back to my own early experiences with the Internet back in the early 90s during the dominance of America Online. It's amazing how long ago that feels.

I have distinct memories of hopping into video game-related chat rooms during the AOL days, the era of "a/s/l." But as someone who didn't have a lot of friends in real-life who were into video games, it provided an outlet. When you hopped into the "PlayStation" room, it meant you were jumping into a room with the assumption that most of the people there are into PlayStation. Home appears to provide the same level of comfort to its users. If you're wandering around Home, you can make safe assumptions about their attitudes towards games, even if the conversations happening within Home have absolutely nothing to do with games.

Home hasn't matched my biggest revelation from my AOL days, though. That happened when someone played the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VII and decided to spoil the death of Aeris. That was a bummer, but also marked my first interaction with "spoilers" and the (now commonplace) kinds of people who hop around the Internet with the sole intent of ruining other people's times. I haven't had a moment like that in Home yet. Maybe you guys (and gals) have. I want to hear your stories.

Oh, and one more thing: I tried out the Sodium space. There were a number of comments in the last column about the playable game there, a twin-stick, arena-based tank shooter that has players blasting away at other tanks. It didn't do much for me, but I'll admit it's one of the more impressive looking games distributed via Home so far. I don't see a reason to go back. Am I missing something?

Until next time -- as one reader put it -- my fellow Homelings. (That actually sounds sorta gross.)

Have something to share? Sitting on a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

My Life In Home, Vol. 2 -- The Chat Room Theory
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