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Second Life is Not a Game! It is a mess.

May 6, 2010

I took Jeremy Kemp’s course in Second Life two semesters ago, so I’ve had quite a bit of experience in SL at this point. After taking the course, I was left frustrated that the interface is so clunky. SL=usability FAIL. It’s been a year since I looked around and I’m highly disappointed that a year later and a brand new browser, the interface is still so counterintuitive.

Second Life utilizes many of the same concepts found in video games, and plenty of people think of it as a video game. Professionals in SL are trying to dispel this image. Unfortunately, they ignore every innovation that games have implemented over the past 10 years at great expense to ease of use and intuitive controls! Avatar design, tricky and frustrating in SL, is quite common in video games, such as The Sims 3 or Mass Effect, where it is quite intuitive. Huge inventory lists are common in all RPGs and are much easier to sort through and manage.

I’m also aware that there is a trade-off between ease of use and user control. For instance, the reason we are learning HTML rather than DreamWeaver is so that we can utilize power instead of ease. This approach makes sense for development professionals. For casual web designers, on the other hand, DreamWeaver or one of its competitors is the wiser option. So long as Second Life insists on keeping the balance weighted toward power over usability, they will continue to alienate new users. Maybe they could consider releasing multiple versions of the browser, one for development professionals and one for casual users?

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