Friday, May 15, 2009

When it goes wrong

You probably don't know what Playstaton Home is. You are the better for it. Playstation Home is, as Penny Arcade would say, "a stupid place for dumb people."

Should I provide a few more data points before we procede? I'll see what I can do.

Every Playstation 3 system comes with a clunky, shambling "virtual world" where a person can log in and, concievably, hang out with other users as they play games and chat together.

Sounds like a pretty cool idea, when you say it that way. But the reality is that the Home experience consists of constant waiting so that you can design a lifeless avatar, then run it around trying to find something worth doing.

Sounds a lot like high school, when you say it that way.

There are many problems with Playstation Home, and I don't have the patience to detail them all (and you wouldn't have the patience to read it all.)

So I'll summarize it's problems with one word: realism.

Sony has designed Home to be very realistic. The clothes, the furniture, the avatars, the environments, all of them were clearly made to look as lifelike as possible. It's as if they thought to themselves "you know what reality could use? Loading Screens."

But realism isn't what I want from a virtual world. It's not what I want from art. I HAVE reality. A lot of it. I've got some right here. You don't need to provide me with more. I'm good.

What I need, and what art is at it's best, is perspective on reality. I need a person or persons to give me the world from another angle so I can compare it to my own, then triangulate something of value.

When you create a "realistic" work like Home, you mute out any chance of an artistic voice. And without that voice, the experience feels empty.

A good counterpoint to Home is "Animal Crossing: City Folk."

This is a game that is far removed from reality. None of the visuals would be mistaken for a photograph, even forgiving the presence of anthropomorphic animals who live in houses and wear clothes.

Yet somehow it feels so much more genuine, and lifelike, than Sony's elaborate "virtual world."

The idea that a work is made better, or legitimized, by being realistic is simply a fallacy. When the credits roll, it's the deeper layers of a work that move us, regardless of what was used to express them.*

*Example: I'm fairly certain that Pluto's moon could not write it a song to make it feel better about not being a planet anymore. And yet . . .

1 comment:

cutmaclass said...

You've nailed it: Home is an absolutely miserable experience.