by Phoenix, HSM team writer
The gift of flight in Home! What could possibly be better?
Home is a place where many people live their virtual ideals and extend the limits of the possible. You can go places you could never see in reality. You can meet people you would not have met anywhere else. Don’t get me wrong — there are many virtual communities out there, good and bad, and it is not my intention to bash any of them. But Home is different.
Home was designed to be a gaming platform, and a social network for gamers. It has evolved into a virtual world chimera, with both gaming and a functioning community complete with homes, streets and theaters, shopping malls and resorts. Home is different because of this mix.
Now we have the ability to fly in Home. No, flight is not new in virtual worlds — but it is different in Home. In Home, you don’t have to fly everywhere. But you can choose to fly in any public space, if you own the proper locomotion. Just the idea of flight is exciting for many of us. It’s something we have longed to do since childhood. Remember Mary Poppins, Superman, even Ultraman? Flight is something we have all said we wished we could do in our real lives, “If I could fly, I would.” Remember ever saying that? We had fight-like experiences in Home before, such as the zero-gravity simulator at Novus Prime. But the recent flight applications are different, and a little more user friendly.
So Home is now special to some because they can fly. But it was already special to others for reasons that might surprise you, or maybe never even considered.
How well do you know your friends in Home? How close are you to them? Do you know them in their real world lives?
Have you ever met someone in Home that has a mobility challenge? Would you even know if you had? Despite all the realistic and familiar things in Home, there are no handicap accessible signs. Have you realized this? There are no barriers or obvious reminders of limitations here, so flying is a logical Home addition. Bentley, sly Cooper’s friend, is the only challenged individual in Home, and he is only a companion.
I have met several people in Home who are mobility challenged. Home for them is a different world, for as many reasons as there are individuals. Some have experienced the ability to walk for the first time in years, or ever. Home’s avatars have made it possible to run around and dance again, something they will never do in the real world. Home extended their social reach, gave them a chance to know people they might never have met otherwise. They have learned about other places and people from the friends they have met. Home made that possible.
I met a guy who was injured in Iraq. He was only in a chair for a while. He went from gaming to checking out Home, enjoying his temporarily lost abilities again. I met another guy who was born with a hip dysfunction, and has had issues with walking all his life. He said he felt free in Home.
Yes there are online games that do the same, allowing people to meet and run around, but Home allows a more — dare I say it – normal atmosphere for meeting others. There are the lounges, the public spaces, the private spaces, and yes, the games. Home has a more realistic feel than most other online communities. Whether we admit it or not, we like Home both for its difference and its familiarity.
Home is different. Imagine that when you first signed on to Home and created your avatar, the you in the real world was using a walker; or a wheelchair, or a cane. Perhaps you were born that way, or perhaps you were left that way through illness or accident. And you are now in Home, walking and running again, or for the first time. For some, this is a dream, a fantasy come true. The words to the Willie Wonka song come to mind, “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination…”
Though some many not even know it or admit it, Home can be a powerful thing, a fun thing, an important thing. For most of the physically challenged people I’ve met, Home is a great place most of the time. Once the initial excitement wears off and they are used to the mobility, they fall into the regular Home routine. They blend in. You would never know they are different.
No, the walking and running aren’t real. None of the aesthetics in Home are real, but the emotional experiences are. That is the point I am making here — the emotional value Home has created for people with different real-world needs. There are people in Home with challenges, just as there are in the real world. The difference is, in Home you can’t see them. In the real world you can see many physical challenges, but not all by any means. In Home every avatar can be perfect, and usually is. There are people out there who might not even give the time of day to someone with a physical difference — it’s shameful, but true. Here in Home everyone is on the same footing.
When you meet someone in Home, you don’t know that they are different. You may never know. In Home, you don’t have to. Difference becomes irrelevant.
Most keep their differences to themselves. They may think others wouldn’t understand how Home makes them feel. Or they may fear they would be dropped as friends if it were revealed. This would be ignorant behavior, but it happens. Some may come right out and make their difference a topic of conversation, while others may not think it matters enough to tell an online friend of a real world limitation. Some take time to gauge the level friendship before they mention their difference. It depends on the person and circumstance.
We all bring different selves to Home. For many, flight is the most unrealistic fantastic thing they have done in our virtual reality. But for others, just walking around is a dream come true, a fantasy, a gift made possible by Home.