Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On a long enough timeline

... the life expectancy of every Xbox 360 reaches zero. A year and eleven  months after I bought mine I flipped on the power switch one evening for a round of Call of Duty 4 to be greeted by the Red Ring of Death. Called MS, got the shipping label, will be sending it back by Friday.

In the meantime, I've pretty much committed myself to buying an Arcade at the end of the month. Mainly I don't trust MS Repairs and $199 for a supposedly cooler running chipset isn't a a bad deal. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Going HOME Again

When I first dropped into this newly created digital equivalent of The Undiscovered Country I found myself in a "Create-A-Character" Imelda Marcos sized wardrobe and paper doll factory. There I confronted my preset choices, the default option avatars that ranged from clearly White Homosexual and White Metrosexual to closeted White Homosexual Republican and several strains of White Model Fag Hag. Oh, and two black people Sony obvious included to satisfy some Affirmative Action quota.

The first instinct leans towards Risk Aversion. Play it safe, play it cool, grab one of those pre-fabbed Abercrombie & Fitch dress up dolls off the rack and prance around HOME for fifteen minutes, then tell the world how utterly compelling the whole business turned out to be. But this was no time and no place for risk aversion. There would be no playing it safe, or playing by the rules. This was a moment for bold, hideous action and for the challenging of the preset social norms of this preset social world. This was a time to get weird, to get funky, and to get ugly.

I knew very quickly that achieving my goal of weird ugly Freakdom would not be easy. No, the Sony Overlords that fashioned HOME appear to have set out with the expressed goal of making everyone look as un-freakish as possible. "NO!" I heard Kaz Hirai cry from his Tokyo Spire, "There will be no freaks here. Lock up the real life monsters and put them away! Out of sight I say!" 

In HOME it is impossible to create the 400 pound woman who can barely trundle on fractured cankles. Absent are the midget beggars dressed in Dickensian frock coats and monocles. Verboten are the Transvestites in fishnets and purple afros whigs trolling the virtual boulevards for cyber tricks. The best I could do was a pudgy, wrinkle creased, quietly heroin addled replica of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers adorned in pink corn rows and a matching mustache.

As I walked outside my Sony subsidized Beachfront Condo and took in my first deep breath of HOME I realized that even though I had not been able to push the Freak Level much past "Sad, Washed Up Burn Out" I had pushed it far enough. Perhaps too far given the pedestrian boundaries laid out before me. 

HOME was the a living definition of White Bread Corporatism. As if the Gays, the Republicans, and the Third Reich had all reached some form of mutual detente and agreed to send their adult male children to be held in a state of suspended animation to ensure the  peace accord was never broken. Until that fateful hour these three disparate groups had found peace here, in HOME, and co-mingled into a race of utterly bland Consumerists.

Vicious packs of lithe white males in virtual off the rack GAP clothes where running this place, and very quickly I was made known that my will to be weird was not welcome here. As I walked around the Central Plaza of HOME most ran from me as I walked up to them and tried to make a gesture of friendship. Others took it upon themselves to type out, "UR UGLY AND FAT" so offended at my inability to conform to their ideal vision of an ideal world for their ideal self.

This was to be expected. No one walks into HOME, or its elder sibling Second Life, wanting to replicate a life approximating their real life. The whole scene reeked with pre-fabricated corporate digital fantasy passed out on a sliver platter. Radical individualism was not to be encouraged, only corporate sanctioned expressions will be tolerated.

And if you lack the necessary pieces of 3D Flair to live out that Sony Endorsed Fantasy life, oh, no worries, Sony will be happy to sell it to you .50 cents at a time. Where? The mall, of course. As "Dawn of the Dead" instructed us, The Mall has it All.

I'll give this to Sony they managed to take an odious dual temple of capitalism and consumerism and completely transform it into a sterile homage to totalitarian fiction and Swedish design aesthetics. 

Two levels of shops: clothes for your digital self, and furniture for your digital playhouse, and even a real estate office no doubt ready to sell you a new digital condo on a balloon mortgage that will no doubt be repackaged as a virtual CDO and traded on the HOME version of Wall Street. All these accoutrements can be yours for a nominal fee of a couple cents here, a couple dollars here. Real world currency, of course. No HOME version of Second Life's infamous LindenDollar ... yet. Give the Sony Overlords time however.

Overlooking the comings and goings inside the Mall is a giant video screen mobbed by video avatars playing an advertisement for something called Qore featuring Sony's Women from Meatspace and canned footage of upcoming video games. Give this time as well. As Sony's economic position in the world of video games worsens I fully expect Kaz Hirai to fill that screen proclaiming the evils Microsoft and its chairman, Emmanuel Goldstein. No doubt HOME Avatars will then spill out into the Central Plaza to engage in their Daily Hate against everything Xbox 360.

Thirty minutes in I was bored and more than a little freaked out by HOME. What horrible, uncreative mind dreamt of this utopia I had to wonder? And who thought this was a good idea?

Then I wandered to the subject of subconscious intent. Was HOME something more? A Corporate Fever Dream; was this the world that the suits and squares who graduated from Harvard Business School and now ran Fortune 500 saw the World as it should be? A Happy Joyless Land filled with Zombie Look-A-Likes who wear the same style, and buy the same things, and spend Friday night in a movie theater playing the trailer for "Twilight" on a loop? I had to wonder then, and I still wonder now, whether HOME is not just a half-assed version of a 3D chatroom, but a peek inside subconscious vision for the Corporate Utopia of Tomorrow. 

As I walked from the Mall to the Movie Theater I caught a glimpse of another freak like me. Some Dude masquerading as a Chick preaching the Center of the Plaza, spreading the Good Word of an Alien Worship Cult. I thought to myself, Right on brother! Fight the power! Be all that Sony doesn't want you to be! Preach your Alien Cult nonsense! Shock the squares! Scare the suits! Fight the Power!

Fear and Loathing in Sony's HOME

I am planning to write about my journey into Sony's OpenBeta of HOME once I actually can log in and stay logged in for more than Fifteen minutes. Right now accomplishing even that task is the equivalent of scaling Everest. Maybe tonight, after I've finished a separate writing project, the Sony Gods and Servers will be kinder to me. In the meantime, here's this: