There’s No Place Like Home: Returning to a Socially Dynamic Space
The re-imagining of gaming’s social landscape is at the forefront of this former PlayStation Home user’s mind.
PlayStation Home: A Home for Gamers
Gaming is an undeniably social activity. Stereotypes that gamers are anti-social and unfriendly don’t hold up to the scrutiny that is today’s vast online community. In recent years, the social aspect of games has increased tremendously, especially with the rise of esports. However, one of the applications that was ahead of its time was PlayStation Home, an experiment that wanted to bring a social hub into PlayStation’s gaming world. The idea was to create a hub that would allow players to meet and launch into other games right then and there, a sort of lobby system on a larger scale.
However, Home evolved into something more than a 3D matchmaking service. It became a lifestyle for many of its users, something that felt more important than the games they were there to match up for. Users began spending more time just hanging around Home and exploring a new virtual world. It took on a life of its own and was forever changed, etched into the hearts of loyal fans and socialites, alike.
One such user, Mason, agreed to talk to us about his experiences with Home.
The First Step into a New World
Mason first downloaded Home when he was 15 years old, nearly ten years ago.
“I saw it on there,” he said, “and I just clicked on it, downloaded it, and I was like ‘What is this?’ And I experimented with it, and ended up becoming addicted to it.” He and his old middle school friend, Mitchell, spent a lot of time on Home, together, having a blast. “It was just addictive, like a replacement of MySpace at the time.”
Some of the two’s favorite Home activities included inviting friends over to their spaces and watching movies. They even threw parties. “Believe it or not, it was a pretty social app. You could get people to do some pretty fun stuff with you.” He enjoyed that the community was open to hanging out virtually the way people do in ‘real life’. It was a break from some of the monotony of gaming, namely shooter after shooter, and a way to meet some cool people without having to set foot out your front door.
In fact, Mason said he believes Home to have been a better social experience than “regular” social media now.
“I think it’s cool to be able to design your own avatar that looks like you and dress him or her the way you want and you guys actually do realistic activities together in this virtual world.” This presented a valuable networking opportunity that was inherently different from applications like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for instance. He feels it provided more freedom to exist in a virtual 3D space rather than the confines of a square posting forum. This craving for more fluid engagement and interaction is echoed by other fans of PlayStation Home.
Home Sweet Home
Mason’s connection to Home was a large part of his PlayStation 3 experience. We asked him how often he used Home.
“Every day,” he emphatically stated. “Anytime I could get on PlayStation Home, I was on it. It was just one of those cool options you could have.” Again, his desire for freedom shined through his answer. Having options is what drew Mason to Home and kept him coming back. He felt a sense of control over his avatar, his space, and his journey. He felt empowered and emboldened to connect with the PlayStation community.
“It was better to stay in touch with people and meet new people. I’ve met a lot of my current PlayStation friends on PlayStation Home.”
When we asked if he was still in contact with the friends he made on PlayStation Home, he expressed regret that he wasn’t.
“Sadly, no, and I honestly think that them getting rid of PlayStation Home might be the reason. When there’s something like that you do on the regular with certain friends and then they take it away from you, there’s not really much to alternate.”
PlayStation Home was the hub for a lot of relationships. What started out as a way to connect people to go off into other games turned into a source of friendship itself. And when that source was removed, the relationships suffered. It wasn’t the games that people kept coming back for: it was the community. With that community severed, Mason saw little ways to maintain those connections.
“There’s not a heavy alternative to PlayStation Home. It was its own original thing and they took it away.”
He expressed his surprise at Home’s closure in 2015, remembering how he spent a lot of money on the social network. He discussed the profitability of add-on content, relating it to games such as The Elder Scrolls Online or Call of Duty. “There’s always going to be add-on content to buy for a game that’s released.”
In addition, he touched on branded content. Home’s exclusivity to Sony made it that much more desirable to Mason. “PlayStation Home was an entirely new world where you could buy in-game content exclusive to PlayStation.” This was an experience with content only available to PlayStation users. There was a sense of solidarity and support when PlayStation created its own world for its users.
“Everything we’ve talked about so far was such a good time that I miss.”
The Freedoms of an Open World
Mason isn’t alone. Plenty of users miss Home, and for a variety of reasons. We asked Mason what his favorite part about Home was.
“My favorite part about PlayStation Home was the open world and freedoms. I could buy a house for myself. I could buy a personal condominium to fit my personal character. And invite people over. Chat. Get to know people. Invite friends over. Didn’t matter, it was freedom to do what I wanted with my character and avatar.”
The most important aspect of Home to Mason was freedom. The freedom to be who he wanted to be and to do what he wanted to do. He wouldn’t be judged and he wasn’t restrained in who he could be. There were options that allowed him to personalize his avatar and his lifestyle that contributed to a sense of individuality, even while logged onto a service used by millions.
“More freedom is always better. Once you give players freedom, they go crazy. They’ll give you their money, just like that.”
Favorite Locations and Hangouts
Taking a trip down memory lane, we talked about favorite spaces and locations in Home.
“I miss those maps that had the mini-games. I mostly would go to the dance clubs [Singstar].” He also enjoyed hanging out at the Playground, and the beaches that Home had to offer.
“Yeah, you could find hidden treasures on these maps. It was cool!”
Hopes for the Future
We began looking towards the future. Next-gen consoles are right around the corner with the PlayStation 5 set to release this holiday season of 2020. Mason’s vision for a new Home turned on a light that revealed endless possibilities.
“Oh I could only imagine the new PlayStation Home being out of this world. Graphically, and the new technology with internet speed or whatever you want to call it. It’s evolving.”
The first improvement Mason would love to see from a new Home is updated graphics. With the locations that PlayStation Home touted, such as a nature park and a variety of ocean-side resorts, improved graphics would make for a much more engaging and visually stunning environment. Animations would be more fluid, and characters would be more stylized and clean, with more options for customization.
“The fact that technology has evolved so greatly, I feel that a new PlayStation Home would be just out of this world graphically and technologically. I think it would be a major improvement in gaming.”
Mason’s thoughts expand into the entirety of gaming, setting a precedent that other brands would consider following: creating and maintaining a virtual space for players that gives them the power and the freedom to build a strong community. He is confident that the technology represented in the PlayStation 5 could make this vision a reality.
“PlayStation 5, for one, I know would be able to handle it. The internet speeds are faster nowadays, there are more servers to support everyone being on it. Sony should exclusively bring back PlayStation Home right now to the PlayStation 5 so we can immerse ourselves in a new social, dynamic world.”
What Home Means to Mason
To Mason, Home is more than a game. It’s a virtual social network that provides a freedom that gamers can identify with. The freedom to explore a dynamic world with a multitude of possibilities for new friendships, encounters, and experiences.
When asked about the prospect of a new Home, Mason only had one thing to say.
“If they brought back PlayStation Home right now, take my money.”
He’s sold. Home provided a very real benefit to his life, and that was an escape from the stressors of real life. A social landscape that was ripe with opportunity, without real world pressures weighing in. In fact, he’d be on PlayStation Home more than any other social media.
“Yes, I will be on there like every day. I’ll be on there more than I would be Facebook. I guarantee it. I would be on there more than Twitter or Instagram. You know, I use those platforms to promote my music. Promote my daily lifestyle. My real lifestyle. And sometimes I kinda want to escape reality. PlayStation Home helped me do that.”
Some of his other suggestions for Home include the same concept with newer innovations. “I want more!” he said. One such innovation is the ability to design your own apartment/house.
“Instead of purchasing a home that’s already designed, I want to design my own home. I want it to be like The Sims RPG.”
Mason’s Message to PlayStation
We asked Mason to tell us what he would tell PlayStation if he were writing an open letter. This was his response.
“I would want to tell PlayStation: Look, the whole PlayStation Home test beta thing, whatever the ordeal was, we want it back. We want it refined. I think you would attract a lot of new revenue and new customers, also. Overall, we want PlayStation Home back because we miss it. And because I think it would definitely work out in your favor and definitely benefit you guys.”
Listen to the full interview here on our YouTube channel! You can follow Mason @fr33mvson on Twitter and Instagram.