Monday I was invited to dinner at my friend Heidi’s house and asked her stepson Gaige to show me his Playstation 3. What I really wanted to see was their avatar system and Playstation Home, a virtual environment for your avatar to interact in. I’ve heard about it but it doesn’t make much sense to me.
I can create a virtual me and walk around a virtual house or virtual mall? And then what?
For those who came in late, an avatar is a computer representation of you. These started as a picture, sometimes an actual photo or some symbol. I rotate the avatar on my Microsoft Instant Messenger to whatever strikes my fancy at the time. Right now it’s Janet Leigh from Psycho.
Sometimes it’s Frobama.
Sometimes it’s some random movie image.
My Xbox has avatars but they look cartoony and there is a certain charm to that. It’s not by accident that my avatar has Little Orphan Annie Eye Syndrome. Barney Rubble also suffers from this (Government Health Care now!)
So Gaige downloads all the things we need which is a ridiculously lengthy process and then it has to install. It probably wouldn’t be so bad but they constantly tell you what’s happening.
NOW LOADING. 17% COMPLETE. DO NOT RESTART YOUR SYSTEM.
I already know what’s happening. Let me tell you what’s not happening.
I am not playing Playstation. That’s what’s not happening. I don’t care about your load times… just make it work already.
So it gets around to finishing and I start making my avatar. Part of the appeal is the Playstation avatar is it looks real and by that it looks like this:
Instead of the Saturday Morning Cartoon version Xbox gives me. So I start making my avatar and I start running into some of the same problems I have with Xbox’s avatar system.
How come I can’t be fatter?
Granted, most people want to have some idealistic version of them but I’m striving for cartoon accuracy here and at my most obese, I look like I just ate at a Brazilian Steakhouse. I look four months pregnant in the game instead of the eleven months I normally look like. I have made avatars on the Wii and it does the same thing. What do these game systems have against fat people? I should be as fat as I want. What do those people in the Walmart’s avatars look like? I can buy a lightsaber but can I buy a scooter with a basket in the front?
I also can’t make myself short. I am starting to think these people are heightists which is ironic since all these systems are made in Asia, you would think I could make myself five feet tall or at least my correct five foot six. I always look five ten or six feet in these games. Case in point, my brother who is five ten and his son is five three and they look almost the same height.
And what if you are a little person? I bet if there was a show called Big World, Little Gamer you’d be able to do it.
I find the avatars in Playstation, while trying to strive for a realistic feel, don’t look like me at all. They look like a digital version of a Glamour Shot.
So I finish my avatar and I appear in, from what I learned from House Hunters International, a three million dollar one bedroom condo overlooking a marina in what looks like the Caribbean. My living room is decorated in early twenty-first century Ikea and I can sit on the furniture and turn the lamps on. Outside of the living room set, the house is empty like I just moved in.
JIM: Hey Gaige, so if someone else I know has this can they come to my virtual house?
JIM: And what do we do?
HEIDI: You can have Yuri over and you both can turn lamps on.
JIM: This is super lame. How do I get more stuff?
GAIGE: You have to buy it.
Of course this is where they get you. Someone thought this was a good idea because boys love dollhouses and video games so much this is a no brainer. Buy furniture. Buy art. There is a good chance if Virtual Jim went to Virtual Yuri’s house it would look pretty much the same as mine. They give you a limited amount of free items to wear but if you want the cool stuff, you have to pay for it. I don’t know if five dollars for a blue lightsaber that Xbox Jim waves around is worth the money but I smile every time I see it so in that respect, I guess it is. My happiness comes cheap. I am a man of simple pleasures.
Gaige instructs me how to leave my condo and I go to the street which actually reminds me of a theme park without rides. It’s a lot like Downtown Disney or Universal Citywalk. It’s very clean and sterile and there are lots of signs trying to sell me stuff. The sidewalks are fake. The aged concrete is fake. The lake is a sham. There is a clothes store, a movie theatre and some benches and jumbotrons for the fifty or so avatars walking the area and 70% of the cheap bastards are wearing the same green polo I have on.
I start walking the area and find a crowd of people. On closer examination there is one woman sitting on a bench and five dudes all trying to talk to her at the same time.
DUDE #1: What’s your name?
DUDE #2: What games do you play?
DUDE #3: My name isn’t Fred Flintstone but I’ll make your bed rock.
Okay, that last one I made up but you get my drift. The only thing sadder than a half-dozen guys making pathetic advances on a woman at one time is a half-dozen guys making pathetic advances on a woman at one time in virtual reality.
And getting rejected.
The girl actually said, and I am completely not making this up, “No means no.”
HEIDI: Jim, do something! I think they’re going to virtual rape that girl!
JIM: Gaige, can I punch people?
JIM: Do I have any weapons? A gun or a chainsaw or something.
JIM: Can I buy one?
GAIGE: I’m pretty sure you can’t.
JIM: Yeah, this completely sucks.
So I walk away from Kitty Genovese and find this area where eight dudes are dancing. Only one of them is dancing with a girl. At least it looked like a girl. For all I know Lola could have been some sixty year old pedophile trying to lure unsuspecting boys into his virtual house with virtual candy.
It’s here I realized what a sausage party Playstation Home is. This is where I also discovered I could do something here I can’t do very well in reality.
I can dance.
You click a button and it lists ten different dance styles. I get behind some unsuspecting dude and hoping I can grind on him but, alas, that is not an option. Damn you, politically correct virtual world. Some sexy Salsa Dancing is all he gets. This isn’t interesting unless he can see me. I move to his front and stand in plain view and start Disco Dancing, complete with spins and finger pointing. I supply the gun noises myself.
Pew pew pew!
We’re all laughing hysterically when his homophobia kicks in and he leaves me.
Discovering my new found skills, I find girl dancing and several guys trying to get her attention. I force my way through the crowd and when I get to the front I launch into a series of moves that would Tony Manero proud.
I start with The Robot. Blend it into some Disco and follow it up with the Running Man, a spin, gun-finger pointing and then I bring it home with the Cabbage Patch.
The girl walks away. Her loss.
So you think you can dance?
No, son… I know I can dance.