Since the first ETCon back in July Second Life, or SL as the cool cats refer to it ;), has been an ever upcoming issue on my agenda. There seems to be a virus that especially infects ESL teachers and draws them into the depths of the cyber space.
I checked out Second Life two or three years ago for the first time, when the hype brought it into the magazines. As most people back then I was disappointed and soon left. In between I checked it out occasionally but after 10 or 15 minutes of flying around in empty spaces the result was the same.
After the first ETCon I wanted to give SL a last try, this time in the name of educational research. Therefore I logged in to SL every day and tried out if there are possibilities to teach on this platform.
During this research I came to some conclusions I would like to share with you.
Empty spaces – what are we living for?
Abandoned places – I guess we know the score..
On and on!
Does anybody know what we are looking for?
Queen – The Show Must Go On
1. The biggest problem is what I call the “Vanilla Sky Effect”. Do you remember the famous scene on Time Square? No? Then watch it below.
There are great places on Second Life, no doubt but most of the time you will experience exactly the same as above. And why do you think movies built on empty worlds like I am Legend are no comedies?
Humans are social animals. If we don’t find someone to interact with, we feel uncomfortable.
2. No storyline, no NPCs.
I think if you want to build an online world you have to learn from the best. In this case Blizzard. The World of Warcraft is the leading virtual world and there are several reasons for this. Two of them are the storyline that is woven into the world and the NPCs (non player characters).
When people log in to SL they expect something similar because SL appears to be a giant game from the outside. Infact it is not and I will come to this point in my conclusion.
What do all successful (online) games have in common? The world is full of artificial life that keeps the player busy. Nothing of this can be found on SL and this is the problem when you develop a game without a game developer.
3. Rely on the community, no borders, too big.
Second Life is based on the idea that the community will build the world. That is not a bad idea in itself but the problem is that everyone wants to be his own boss. So instead of working together and building one giant world people buy thousands of little islands to become “king” there.
Therefore the world is constantly growing leaving the handful of people back in more and more space. To make an experience in a closed environment, I tried out twinity, a SL style world that builds a 3D clone of Berlin and Singapur. Same effect as in point 1. For me even worse because coming from Berlin I know all these spots and seeing them empty is really strange.
4. The way is the goal.
Take WoW for example. The interesting parts are not always the quests, it is the way that leads you to the quest. The teleporting on SL destroys this. You are just jumping between detached islands, from one empty space to another.
5. The Second Life is worse than the First Life
What is the number one problem today? Useless consumption. And what are the only things you can do on SL? Sell or buy virtual stuff. SL is the perversion of our real lifes. You log in and you meet to go shopping. Luxury goods of course. Houses, shoes, dresses, cars, boats etc.
Conclusion for me was that the problems SL has are not related to bad graphics, bad usability or connection problems. The problem is the athmosphere and there SL did everything wrong it could possibly do. Maybe they over estimated the creativity of the community or the fact that humans still act like humans no matter if they are online or in the real world.
So I was at the point to finally deinstall SL from my computer until I saw the light.
But more about that in my next post about Second Life ;).