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Flying Cigarettes, Talking Condoms and Virtual Homelessness


New shit has come to light about Sony’s forthcoming virtual community service, in the form of a talk given by Peter Edward at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival (link >

Edward was discussing supervising the Home environment, although Sony doesn’t intend to become a “virtual police” force. Instead, it will be providing different areas within Home depending on the age of the user, helping to apply appropriate non-game branding for products such as cigarettes and alcohol.

“If you really feel like you’ve been abused or that someone has just shown wholly inappropriate behaviour then you are able to complain about it. If you really, really misbehave you can have your console disconnected at a machine level, so you would actually have to move house and buy a new PS3 before you could get online again….”

There’s been a lot of speculation on how Sony would handle the relatively open-ended nature of the huge 3D virtual space they are constructing. We know that each user’s Home space will be dark if the owner’s PS3 is turned off, which means that user Homes are peer-to-peer connections – not hosted on Sony’s servers. While this makes sense from a network scaling perspective, it also takes Sony out of the equation in terms of legal responsibility. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Home service has been relatively feature-complete for a long time; the beta might well be for lawyers to go through it and suss out the potential for lawsuits. And not only that, now we learn that they can literally log your IP and make you Homeless if they want to. If a user decides to construct a pantheon to White Power in Home, expect Sony to swoop down and kill the offender’s access – even if that content is 100% the responsibility of the user who created it.

I have to admit I’m a little worried that they won’t like my planned Temple of Insect Pornography. I’ve been working on it for months. Having said that, the tone of the comments from Sony makes me think that they will mostly stay out of people’s Homes. As mentioned before, any surface in Home can potentially be made to display a webpage. We’ve seen the hooks in action at E3, with Phil Harrison’s nifty XMB-enabled phone taking a photo of the audience and having it automagically appear in a virtual frame on the virtual lounge wall. Doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine what people could display in their own Homes.

Of course Sony will be maintaining big public servers (which will have a higher capacity than the 60-man limit on personal spaces) as virtual public squares. No user content there.

Edward also had this to say:

With a presentation featuring potential branding from Durex, Marlboro and Bacardi, Edward said that it’s not Sony’s intention to offer a sanitised experience, and that more mature gamers can expect to see the same products advertised online as in the real world.

“It’s relatively simple to be confident that somebody is over 18. So it’s no problem to have areas that are only open to those aged 18 years’ and over. We are able to do that quite comprehensively, we have access to the log-in data that they use for the PlayStation Network,” offered Edward.

The mind reels. You think Second Life is freaky? This is going to take flying e-pensu to a whole new level. Home will not be nearly as hackable as SL in terms of geometry (one needs a dev kit and Maya to actually sculpt spaces), but frankly I think a company like Durex will be more than happy to out-weird the minor gimmicks we’ve seen in other virtual spaces.

From all indications, Sony Home really is going to be every bit as bizarre as Neal Stephenson’s Metaverse. Add to this the user spaces plastered with any manner of JPEG and webpage that they like – short of kiddie porn and hate speech – and you have the makings of truly High Weirdity.


2 responses to “Flying Cigarettes, Talking Condoms and Virtual Homelessness”

  1. Excellent assessment. I’m not sure Sony really understands what they’re getting into here, but Second Life is a great living example, including Linden Lab’s increasingly quagmired involvement in policing the virtual world.

  2. I can already foresee the scientific “reports” of children who are more prone to violence, do worse in school, or stay out of the social atmosphere due to living their life out in PS3.

    Whatever, Sony says they will pretty much be able to weed out those old enough to enter the public sphere (with their adult advertisements or whatever), but give time to a hacker, and everything becomes accessible.

    By the way, I will be one of the first to admire your temple.

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