Coming HOME Again

Saturday, September 27, 2008
About six months ago I got an email from Sony saying, in much more elaborate and marketable terms, that I was invited to come try the beta of their long-lauded service, Playstation HOME.

Long story short:

It was boring. There were a few people in the bowling alley. The Arcade games were sorta lame. The theater was cool but it took too long to load up the videos. The only way to have a dance party and make use of the dance emotes was to blast your stereo and let your headset pick up on. I didn't log on very much.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got another email. "Playstation HOME has been updated. Please delete your old Beta client and download the new one."

I didn't make it a priority, but finally tonight, I decided to see what it was all about. I'm glad I did.

Very quickly, I'll list the new HOME features I noticed without a marketing ploy telling me about it.

1. Revamped Character Customizer
2. Mall Space where you can get new properties (A Summer house), clothes, furniture, etc. There are also chess tables in the mall, and I had an excellent match with someone and made a friend.
3. Cafe Area
4. Items (Bubble Makers!)
5. Faster loads

Last, and most importantly, the ability to jump straight into a game with a new acquaintance. I tested this with Warhawk, handing players their asses. I was able to jump straight from HOME into the game another HOME player was in--and he wasn't even on my friend's list. It was as simple as:

Guy: "Want to play Warhawk?"
Me: "Sure."

He started playing. I clicked his avatar, clicked "Join Warhawk game", and was taken straight to the game he was in.

But the reason I'm writing about this here is not to plug new features or try to drop fresh bits of news--there are a flood of gaming blogs for that. I wanted to mention how HOME made me feel and react.

I had FUN.
I was EXCITED to meet new people.
I was IMPRESSED by the awesome scenery and deep but simple customization tools.
I was HAPPY that I downloaded HOME and I look forward to spending more time there.

As a gamer, there are so few communities where something like this is possible. To meet, chat, play casual games...and then jump straight into another, actual game and share an gaming experience. I added two people to my PSN Friends tonight--a guy with whom I played chess, and another with whom I played Warhawk. I was filled with nostalgia, but not the kind Malech talked about in his post about Mega Man 9. I was reminded of going to school and making a new friend in class or at lunch or at recess, going to the arcade after school and tearing it up at Street Fighter 2 or Virtua Cop or any one of a hundred other games.

It was a good feeling that I haven't felt in a long, long time.