Sony's Home and Microsoft's Avatar draw unwarranted comparisons at TGS

Tateru Nino
T. Nino|10.09.08

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Sony's Home and Microsoft's Avatar draw unwarranted comparisons at TGS

From Chiba, Japan, AP reports on Sony and Microsoft's upcoming avatar-based offerings at the annual Tokyo Game Show. Associated Press goes to great lengths to avoid spooking what they seem to feel are a parochial and hidebound audience with gems like, 'In the so-called "metaverse" in cyberspace, players manipulate digital images called "avatars" that represent themselves, engaging in relationships, social gatherings and businesses.'

Of course, the notion of graphical avatars as a part of a wide variety of Internet services has persisted for most of the last two decades, but even the sense of this is backwards.To the casual and uninformed observer it might appear that the user manipulates this (ahem) 'digital image' to perform actions, but this is substantively not the case. The user moves or takes action through the virtual environment in relation to spaces and to other users, and the avatar represents the action to others.

It's just that sort of long-arm punditry that seems to make AP compare Sony's Home and Microsoft's Avatar service with Linden Lab's Second Life, despite Sony and Microsoft's respective services having about as much in common with Second Life, as they have with Mortal Kombat. 'The real-time interactive computer-graphic worlds are similar to Linden Lab's "Second Life,"' writes the AP correspondent, in a wondrously surreal moment.

Are you a part of the most widely-known collaborative virtual environment or keeping a close eye on it? Massively's Second Life coverage keeps you in the loop.

It is true that all three have some things in common. They're all 3D, they allow users to meet and communicate, and allow some limited sharing of data between their users. Most of the similarities end there. The metaphor is only skin deep.

Sony's Home presents a visually gorgeous spectacle (basically the graphics are about the same as Second Life's, but everything is pre-made and tuned by professionals) that is about making a space where Playstation gamers can meet each-other and communicate outside of the games that they play. Everyone gets to look like a fashionably hip teen from what we've seen of the appearance and attire options so far. It is far less clear what we older gamers might do. I guess we all have to be ageplayers there and have teen avatars. Please, let us be wrong about that.

Microsoft's own service seems a bit more like the felt-cutout version of Google's Lively chat-rooms -- the 3D avatar is, in many ways, little more than a representative image - without any broader framework of tools or spaces to operate in. You could draw comparisons between Microsoft's Avatar and EVE Online avatars, once you remove the space, the game and the space-ships.

Nevertheless, they're both environments for increasing communications and encounters between (perhaps widely separated) users - and that's a good thing. Let's not mistake the cat for a cow, though, in an unseemly haste to try to compare everything that has an avatar to Second Life, though. Please?

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