Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Final Days of PlayStation Home

PlayStation Home, circa late 2014

Sony’s virtual world experiment on PS3, called PlayStation Home, hit the gaming scene on December 11, 2008, bringing its own brand of massively multiplayer fun to a community of millions. Sony recently announced that it will be shutting the game down on March 31, 2015, some seven years after its debut.

These are the final days of PlayStation Home.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It
Saturday, March 14, 2015, 7 p.m. – two weeks until the end.

Central Plaza, which had been bustling with the majority of the PS Home hold-outs only three weeks ago, is a ghost town. There’s a few scattered players shuffling around, but not a single one is speaking. Maybe I picked an off time, but on Saturday night, you’d expect someone to have congregated in the game’s most popular hub.

I duck into the bowling alley, wondering if players are congregating there instead.

Usually you’re lucky if you can find a free spot in a blowing game, let alone and entire free lane. But all four? I pick up the ball and start trying for a strike, but my heart isn’t in it. I exit the game and spin my avatar around, towards the door.

In the back, a single player sits on a bench. Maybe he was there the whole time, or maybe he just walked in. It’s kind of creepy and a little depressing.

I didn't get the guy in the shot, but it's still creepy empty.

Things pick up a little around midnight, but what a far cry from PlayStation Home’s heyday.

Gotta Get Back in Time
I discovered PlayStation Home at a weird time in my life. I had just quit my job of many years to complete the master’s degree I had been working on for quite a while. I was living with my parents and had built up a pretty nice savings account, so money wasn’t a concern. Technically I was supposed to be preparing for next semester and the hell that is student teaching, but most of the time, I found myself with a controller in my hands and, sometimes after dark, a bottle of whiskey to keep me warm. Also drunk.

I’m not exactly the most social individual, but quitting a job that had me interviewing new, interesting people nearly every day left me feeling a bit – I don’t know. Lonely isn’t quite right, and neither is bored. I was feeling… bonely. No, wait – lored.

Cut to a few nights later. After fooling around with that old simulator, Life with PlayStation, Jack Daniels and I noticed the Home icon hanging out in the PS3’s user interface. I remember having messed around with Home briefly a few months before and thinking it was dumb, but I booted it up anyway because I was feeling awfully lored and slightly bonely.

I found myself dumped into Central Plaza, surrounded by freaks of all shapes and sizes. Within seconds of my arrival, some kind of robot-man in a diving suit (think Bioshock) strutted up to me and requested that I show him my “pepperoni nipples.” When I walked away, he chased me around, repeating his bizarre request in all caps.

I was immediately in love this weird, wonderful game.

At least, I think that’s how it happened. I might be blending several memories into a romanticized swirl. In fact, I’m pretty sure my pepperoni experience happened at a then-girlfriend’s house. But the thing you just read is also pretty accurate, so let’s go with that.

One of the great things about PS Home is that you can be anyone or even anything you want. A 14-year-old girl named Princess Sally? Sure! An old man named Brett? Go for it! A terrifying yeti woman with green skin and purple hair? I’ve never seen that, but why not?

I was none of those things.

At first I tried to make my avatar resemble my real self, but the hair options ranged from awful to criminal. I opted for a sex change, traded my curly brown hair for long, red locks, and never looked back.

Well, except for when I was a short, fat black guy with a sweet blue afro. I enjoyed switching between the two, but somewhere along the line, a Home update deleted him. So nowadays, I stick with Red.

I even wrote one of my first blog posts about those wacky, buggy days of PS Home, which can be seen here.

It’s much less buggy in its final incarnation, but in seven years, the damn game never left beta.

The Final Countdown
Back in the present, PlayStation Home has been showing signs of the impending apocalypse for the last few months. Players could no longer purchase content like outfits and apartment furnishings by the end of 2014, and even now, three months after the fat man in red squeezed his fat hiney down every chimney in from Alaska to Zimbabwe, a massive Christmas tree stands unchallenged and unchanged in Home Square.

That's me, and I love Tekken. Merry Christmas!

Once premium content is now being doled out for free, and the remaining “Homesters,” as the game calls them, seem to be dressing in their most outlandish threads for one last hurrah.

I used to spend my Home time gently trolling people and being a lovable ass, but lately, things have changed. I’ve had actual conversations with actual people about important topics. Maybe this is what Sony had intended all along.

Nah, screw it, it’s still more fun to run up to people and say “I was molested by Spider-man!” then run off before they can type out a decent reply.

I’ll be chronicling the fall of the PS Home society for the rest of this month, so check back for an update or two before PlayStation Home, as its final update proclaims, “rides off into the sunset.”

No comments:

Post a Comment