Sony’s Virtual World Has All the Charm of an Orwell Novel

Sony’s bid to build a real life Matrix is hitting some early bad press from gay and lesbian allies on news that the platform filters out any gay and lesbian references as well as mentions of religion or sex, preventing users from committing anything resembling thoughtcrime. The San Francisco Chronicle writes:

“Michael Marsh, an 18-year-old gamer from Norwalk, Conn., wanted to set up a gay/straight alliance club in PlayStation Home, Sony’s new free 3-D virtual world component for the PlayStation 3.

The problem was that the words he was using – “gay,” “lesbian” and “bisexual” – were being filtered from text chats and were not being allowed in the naming of clubs or in postings in club forums. Marsh, who is straight but supports gay rights, said he raised the issue with Home community managers during the private beta test, but the problems persisted after the public beta introduction of Home on Dec. 11.

“I can understand if they’re filtering out profanity, but if feel like it’s discrimination,” Marsh said. “By blocking a word like ‘gay,’ which is a preferred term by the gay community, you’re encouraging it as a bad word.” Other words blocked include “Christ”, “Jew” and “Hello”– presumably because it contains the word “hell”.

Sony reps respond that the virtual world is still in beta and that someday soon, gays and lesbians will actually exist in their virtual universe. For our money, it sounds like the problem with Sony’s virtual world is the same thing all Sony products suffer from: Overprotection and dogmatic hierarchical control. It’s a strategy that Sony clings to despite it single-handedly killing BetaMax, MiniDiscs and Memory Sticks. Homophobic or not, Sony’s virtual world sounds like a dull place to (not actually) be.