lol wuz up john tesh

I’d brought this upon myself. Tired and lonely, I decided to break from my marathon session of Everyday Shooter and install PlayStation Home. The decision didn’t come easy: I’m a misanthropic introvert, drawn to solitary, alien experiences like Flower, Knytt and Rez. Plus, my perception of Home was that it was like Second Life minus the user-created content, furries and sex dungeons, plus microtransactions – not exactly most people’s idea of a good time.

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As I said, I was lonely. And I really just wanted to play that echochrome arcade game they’d put in the bowling alley – at least, that was my excuse.

After spending what seemed like at least four minutes creating my character, I spent another five trying to cast him off his swank downtown apartment’s balcony and into the harbor below. Thwarted by his pitiful vertical and some well placed invisible walls, I went back inside and took stock of my situation. No bathroom? Where did I sleep? Why am I so ugly? No matter. After conceding that it was impossible to destroy my Frankensteinian doppelganger, I decided I would “fix” him later. For now, I would face the world. I loaded the Central Plaza.

The Central Plaza is PlayStation Home’s hub. It connects all of the first-party “spaces” – the Bowling Alley, Mall, Theatre and Gamer’s Lounge, a place I didn’t know existed until researching for this piece. It’s sleek and decidedly West Coast, not too dissimilar to one of those Southern California high schools filled with 27-year-old actors you always see on MTV, except instead of curiously hot, over-tanned wax people, it’s overflowing with animatronic American Apparel models, almost all incapable of anything but a few monosyllabic grunts and groans. That was definitely the case with the first guy who approached me as soon as I had loaded into this new environment.

>hey brah u look jus like john tesh

That’s because I am John Tesh.

>u mute?

No, I don’t know how to respond to you, blunt_killa7329. Here, have some bird seed.

>whats matter, you got dick in yo mouth?

Totally. In fact, I have an entire bag of dicks in there.

That’s how the conversation would have gone if I had known how to type back. Instead, I sat there, a malformed mute, and took my verbal flogging. Anyway, he was right. I did look like John Tesh. How he was familiar enough with the TV-personality-turned-musician’s appearance to make that judgment was anyone’s guess. In the meantime, all I could do was glare at blunt_killa7329 in silence and move on.

While my impression of the overall level of discourse in Home was inevitably tinged by that first encounter, I quickly learned that there are tons of fantastic conversations to be had in Home, covering a variety of topics ranging from the tastiness of Dannon Danimals to the artistic merit of Matthew Barney’s Blood of Two. I even went as far as to create an elaborate back story for my limp – I insist my character had a limp – that involved me losing my left leg while interning on the Time Bandit, my favorite ship on Deadliest Catch. This is what I would tell to girls … if I had ever learned to communicate.

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Unfortunately, I never did. My interactions with other people consisted of me arriving during awkward pauses of conversation while the other parties involved waited for the hulking, disfigured John Tesh lookalike standing within breath mint distance to return to whatever bog he’d lumbered out from.

After an hour of hobbling around purposelessly, I made my way to the bowling alley. It was a pleasant surprise, the first real sense of usefulness I’d found in Home. The place was packed with avatars bowling, playing pool, chatting it up or hunkered down in front of glowing arcade machines. That was where I belonged: in a dark corner, detached from human contact, the glow of a videogame illuminating my disproportioned face.

I wandered the arcade until I finally found an empty echochrome machine. I approached it slowly and waited for it to load. (All things in Home are downloaded per piece, and apparently the arcade games were no exception.) The wait did not temper my lust. I’d earned this.

Finally, I was in. This version of echochrome was different from its PSP and PSN counterparts – a curious combination of echochrome and childhood favorite Spellavator. I tried to immerse myself in its novel gameplay, but failed miserably my first couple gos – a male and female avatar next to me kept breaking my concentration. They exchanged ages and asked for pictures. The female didn’t have any, conveniently enough, but Desperate Dude sent his along regardless. I sighed and went back to my game.

As my skills increased, so did the intensity of the conversation going on next to me. I’d just cleared the screen of four enemies when-

>that’s how u like it huh?

Ugh. I continued on. The enemies were dropping more rapidly and I started to work up a sweat – or rather, I imagined my on-screen persona working up a sweat – a real problem when you don’t have a bathroom in your apartment.

>that’s right, that’s right

The wee echochrome men dropped like mortar fire, nearly as violently as the increasingly disturbing conversation occurring a few feet from my avatar. Then-

>SQUIRT

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I had to get out. I fled to the exit as fast as my prosthesis could carry me. Then I waited for the Central Plaza to load. And then I fled again, as fast as my prosthesis could carry me. Except I didn’t. I’d managed to not only run back into the Bowling Alley loading area, but actually confirm loading the Bowling Alley. I caught a glimpse of the two lovers in the corner. My exit was quick, and I waited for the Central Plaza to load once more.

Then I fled, as fast as my prosthesis could carry me. I ran across the plaza winding my way through the yammering herd and back to the entrance of my apartment, where I stood and waited for it to load. But something was wrong. It wasn’t loading. Had I moved to the wrong spot? I tried moving – no use. I was stuck.

I sat there flailing about madly as people made their way past me, brushing against me and sending my shoulder flying backwards. I looked like an inflatable knock down doll. And, as if on cue, there he was.

>lol wuz up john tesh

blunt_killa7329 was mocking my misfortune. People started to gather to watch the large, ugly man flutter in the door.

I couldn’t bear it – I had to shut down the system. I reached behind my PlayStation 3 and flipped its main power switch, rather than powering it down properly. I didn’t care. I’d log back on, alter my creature and be done with Home for the day. echochrome wasn’t going anywhere.

Upon rebooting the system and re-entering Home, I saw a message. In that moment, a million thoughts rushed to my mind: Maybe I’d made a good impression on someone; maybe they were going to invite me to their clubhouse where we’d drink dark coffee, plan turf wars and schedule bowling nights. I opened the message.

go away, it said. That’s all. No subject line. Just a message from someone I didn’t recall within the game world telling me I wasn’t welcome there. That’s fine. I can take a hint..

I shut down the PS3.

Jonathan Glover is a writer living on the East Coast.

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