The results are never pretty when a local mainstream media outlet attempts to explain the plot or core concept behind a popular video game. How often have we seen complex games such as Grand Theft Auto boiled down to containing manic gunplay for the sake of manic gunplay alone? Now that a mother of three in Deltona, FL has seduced a fourteen-year-old boy through Sony's PlayStation Home and fled to Oklahoma to be with him, ClickOrlando.com has to explain exactly what PlayStation Home contains when covering the story. Did they provide fair coverage or has the whole thing been turned into another scare story? Here are the relevant bits:
Police said the Deltona woman used online interactive video games to meet the 14-year-old and then went to his house in Oklahoma. Her whereabouts were unknown Wednesday night. Police suspect she might be between Deltona and Oklahoma City. The woman, identified as Annamay Alexander, told the teen she wanted to be his wife, police said. Police said that she told him she wanted to leave her family, her house and life and start over with him.
Alexander met the 14-year-old boy through an interactive virtual reality video game called PlayStation Home. Players who plug into the Internet can become any character they want and meet anyone they want anywhere in the world. Oklahoma City police said that Alexander played the game for nine months, chatting with the boy in Oklahoma and sending him messages.
Police said parents should be aware that connecting to PlayStation Home through the Internet is free and players can send messages and photos. The arrest affidavit said Alexander used the PlayStation console to send the boy a picture of her in her underwear. Investigators advised parents to watch the habits of their children and pay close attention to what games they play and who they talk to. Parents who own an Xbox or PlayStation should understand that children could be meeting and playing games with strangers from around the world.
That's actually not as bad as I'd expected, although that's probably because Home lacks any sort of complex narrative or battle structure. It's easier to explain to the mainstream audience that Home is a big chat room rather than a digital world of mini-games and microtransactions, and I'm glad to see that Home itself was not vilified as a result of Alexander's actions. Had the two met in, say, Halo 3: ODST I expect we'd hear a very different spin on events.