Anti-Aliased: See the griefing, taste the griefing

Seraphina Brennan
S. Brennan|01.14.09

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Anti-Aliased: See the griefing, taste the griefing

If home is where the heart is, then PlayStation 3 users have some pretty cold, racist, and sexually demeaning hearts. Hearts that make Halo 3 players look like cute puppies in comparison. Now I'm not saying that PlayStation Home is not a great idea -- in theory it's a brilliant idea. Play in a world like Second Life, meet other users, play mini games, launch into full PS3 games, what's not to love about any of that?

Well, it seems Sony forgot about the precedents of other virtual worlds. Second Life, while nice, can have the uncanny ability to resemble slums in certain areas thanks to the scary nature of some of the creators. Xbox Live sports some of the most offensive users (NSFW) around. So how exactly was Home suppose to avoid the travesties that affect other worlds?

Sony has already stated that "user behavior and feedback" will shape where they go with the Home beta. If that's the case, where are they going to go? Totalitarian state, anyone?
I'd like to be tongue-in-cheek with this and say something along the lines of "I told you so," but I really don't want to do it. Making a virtual world, like Home, is extremely difficult. I'm not speaking on a programming or design level, but on a social level. Anticipating the actions of users is anything but easy.

There's a thin line between letting users have all the freedom they want and putting in enough restrictions to make sure people are secure from griefing. You don't want to step on people's freedom of speech, but that freedom can only go so far before it begins to offend others.

Home is finding that out right now. While the best defense you have against people who want to grief you in voice chat is the good old mute function, the chat is an entirely different story. Sony's filter is aiming at pretty much everything, including words like "Christ," "Jew," "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual," and my favorite, "hell."

Unfortunately, Sony's filter just looks for any occurrence of the word in chat, which makes saying things like "hello," "assume," and "potential" look more like "****o," "***ume," and "***ential." Past the difficulty in actually speaking, words like "gay" and "lesbian" are preferred terms in the GLBT community. So if a user wants to make a gay/straight alliance club, it's not going to work out so well.

So why is the social world of Home burning? There are a few reasons that are all building together to create the main problem, which is why this is so tricky. There's no "quick fix" button or feature that Sony can implement to magically make Home a better place -- as much as they might want to think they can do that.

The first problem is the most noticeable one -- Home is severely lacking in content. While the arcade machines are cool, and the little mini games are something, they're not enough to keep users happy. Even worse, these mini-games can only hold a limited number of players, forcing other users to "stand in a virtual line" until someone leaves and opens up a spot. This means users are standing around and becoming irritable because they can't get into the game they wanted to play.

The user base has already gone through the initial content, found it lacking, and then latch on to whatever crumb Sony can push out next. Once they're done with that, they're back to attempting to find something fun to do in Home. For some of those people, that fun comes from harassing other players. Simply put, when you can't get your jollies from the content, why not harass the person next to you until he quits?

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