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Welcome to Home Screen

Welcome to Home Screen: a newsletter about daily life on the internet during a pandemic. My name is T
Home Screen
Welcome to Home Screen
By T.C. Sottek • Issue #1 • View online
Welcome to Home Screen: a newsletter about daily life on the internet during a pandemic.
My name is T.C. Sottek, and I’ll be the host of this weekly experiment. I’m a game developer, writer, and the executive editor at The Verge. If you’re not familiar with any of that stuff, you may know me as the creator of Is It Canceled Yet?, a website that tracked a bunch of the major social gatherings that have been canceled during the rapid outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
I launched the website a few weeks ago thinking it would be a small distraction to punctuate my day… but it exploded. I never promised a comprehensive resource, but people flooded my inbox with requests to add all of the events they care about to the website, however small. They also asked to add new features and to make it all more efficient. A million-plus pageviews and hundreds of messages from readers later, I learned how deeply and broadly people were feeling the impact of social interaction being taken away from them.
Now, cities are getting shut down completely, and lots of people are losing their jobs. There’s a lot of confusion and fear. I’ll still update Is It Canceled Yet? occasionally, but as many of us become isolated at home to prevent the spread of disease, there’s much more to say. So, for now, and perhaps until our species is in the clear of this latest disaster, I’m going to deliver this newsletter to you a few days a week with a mix of essays, essential news, internet curiosities, and things to do online – something nice to fill your home screen, while you’re stuck at home. 
We’re in this together. And while the internet hasn’t been perfect lately, it still keeps us connected, even when we’re apart. 

🔧 How This Is Going To Work
I’ll be filling this newsletter with new stuff I see online and internet classics that I can remember. But I also want a big part of it to be a conversation with readers. (That’s y’all.) If there’s something you love that you see online, whether it’s a fun website, a game nobody knows about, or some kind of event, please tip me and I’ll consider including it. You can email me with tips at: homescreen@theverge.com
Also, in every Friday issue, I’ll be sharing my favorite work from home setup from a reader. If you’d like to have yours included, please email me with: 
  • A photo or photos of your desk / office
  • Your name (first name only is ok!)
  • What you do
  • How and/or why you designed your setup the way you did, and what kind of gear you’re using
  • Anything else you’d like us to know about you
Note that anything you submit may be included in the newsletter and in the version that appears on The Verge dot com.
Now, let’s get to some links.
🪐 Other Worlds
I’ve used computers forever, but it wasn’t until the year 2000 that I truly and irrevocably got sucked into the internet. My dad bought me EverQuest for my birthday, probably because of the titillating cover art on the rack at Best Buy. I had plenty of friends at school, but in the fantasy world of Norrath, I found a community. The game helped me develop some close and unexpected relationships with strangers that I still remember clearly to this day. 
As one of the original MMOs, EverQuest was really just a chat box with a 3d graphical interface and a high fantasy theme. In other words, it was like a fancy parlor trick from a graphics card that helped form human connections. It’s never been a better time to explore these worlds again and meet new people around the globe.
Nicole He, a game developer and all-around creative genius, is taking a new tour of Second Life, which is still a thing. (A personal warning: if you decide to try out Second Life, be prepared to encounter gangs of horny furry avatars.) 
Nicole He
i’m chatting with someone!!! they’re from texas!! https://t.co/UBUA44Ow3u
9:41 AM - 15 Mar 2020
World of Warcraft Classic launched last year and burned brightly for a moment, but if you want to relive peak 2004, it’s not too late to start classic WoW.
And finally, EverQuest, which launched in 1999, is still officially in development. The 26th expansion (you’re reading that right: it says “twenty six”) launched in December, 2019. But the real magic of EverQuest is unofficial. Long before WoW Classic launched, a group of players have been running Project 1999, which is basically “EverQuest Classic.” It’s free to play and has the blessing of the official EQ developers. The best part? The community. Everyone I’ve met in Project 1999 has been friendly and welcoming. I’m sure it’s because everyone who goes through the trouble of emulating a 21-year-old game isn’t there for the graphics or the gameplay; they’re there for each other. You can sign up for the game here.
🦝 Small Empires
The new Animal Crossing is out, and Verge games editor Andrew Webster says it “maintains the charm and style” of the series… even if the game is technically about running errands for anthropomorphic middle-managers of a fantasy gig economy so you can pay your mortgage to a raccoon. And while some are ignoring all that in favor of casual hangouts and group photos, a disturbing hustle culture is developing on many Animal Crossing islands.
Friend of The Verge Russ Frushtick has already invented factory farming in Animal Crossing, and now runs a bug prison for profit.
Russ Frushtick
bug vendor when https://t.co/u2b247x2IR
2:07 PM - 24 Mar 2020
Meanwhile, legions of other players are turning the lands of Animal Crossing into a fracked hellscape of tarantula farms in order to pay off Tom Nook. Just look at this environmental destruction.
sonic260
I went to an island to get some clay, but it turned into a tarantula farm! https://t.co/aryjY1O6zt
8:32 PM - 24 Mar 2020
Spiders are our friends!
Of course, there’s some hope. While members of Congress get rich selling off stock before a disaster, justice is alive in Animal Crossing. Kudos to Elizabeth Ballou for busting Tom Nook on insider trading and locking him up.
elizabeth ballou
busted tommy nook for insider trading and took the law into my own hands https://t.co/H14sMMN1Sn
9:57 AM - 24 Mar 2020
🖋️ A Few Words
Blogging is back, including a beautiful pop-up blog from a group of talented friends on the internet (including some of my colleagues at The Verge). It’s called Indoor Voices, and you should bookmark it immediately.
My colleague Ashley Carman has two of my favorite pandemic stories of the month, writing about how the virus can’t stop nail artists, and how fashion influencers are rethinking their curated aesthetics while stuck at home.
👁️ Watch Party
Soothing live animal webcams to watch while you’re stuck at home. Do I need to say more?
The entire archive of Strongbad Emails is still online. Though it pains me, I recommend enabling Adobe Flash for this website, and this website only.
Movie studios have started releasing films early online. Universal kicked things off by releasing things currently in theaters as $20 rentals. That includes Trolls World Tour, which is the greatest achievement in cinema history according to the McElroy family.
📝 A Note
I know it’s scary out there. The best we can do is wash our hands, follow best practices for keeping ourselves and others safe, and stay hopeful. Computers can be misery machines if we let them be, but there’s still a lot of great stuff on the internet that can help us out. In the months ahead I’ll try to share some of that hope with you in this email, a few days a week.
See you again soon! 
-TC


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T.C. Sottek

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