Second Life and Minecraft

by Goldie on March 27, 2011

in Games,Virtual Worlds

This post was inspired by a meeting of the meetup group currently known as Serious Second Life. We were discussing what we are working on and what our involvement currently is in Second Life. For many of us we are less involved in Second Life, while still busy in virtual environments or sometimes simply busy with social networking/media sites and tools.

I know I’ve been a rare presence in Second Life. For a while it was the lack of a machine with enough horsepower to do anything in Second Life…you know, like walk. Now that has been resolved but I’m looking for that “project” or reason to reenter the world.

In the mean time I’ve been exploring gaming, game design, and augmented reality. One game that has caught my eye and made me ask some questions is Minecraft. I will say up front that I have only played a small amount of Minecraft, but I have been stunned and amazed by the videos out there of the creations made in that game. It has taken the gaming world by storm, being names game of the year by some. Yet at the same time it is an amazingly simple game. You start out building stuff with cubes, you can eventually program using logic gates, oh and and night the monsters come out so you better get your shelter built.

What I’ve seen of the game makes me say the simplicity brings out the creativity in people. It also makes me ask why is this a wild success yet Second Life is so…niche when the potential for creating is so vast in Second Life. I was looking for more on Minecraft and came across this article on G4TV’s site with this great quote:

“Unlike other world-building games like Second Life, where it’s theoretically possible to build whatever you like, but is, in practice, way more trouble than its worth, Minecraft isn’t hard, per se. Read a few “getting started” tutorials if you’d like, but after that, you’ll find your way without too much trouble. It’s not super time-consuming either. Give Minecraft a couple hours, and you will have an exciting adventure, I promise you. Plus, there’s enough danger inherent in guarding against death that it’s interesting, unlike Second Life.”

That started me thinking and reminded me of some past discussions on why the entrance to Second Life is so hard.

Beyond basic usability questions the real challenge is finding why you are there. Now needing to build so I don’t get eaten by monsters wouldn’t have enticed me to join Second Life. I know I was terrified of “damage turned on” areas in Second Life, even though I knew I would get my avatar back. But one thing that Second Life doesn’t have that real life has is an initial impetus to act.

Even if I picked a random point on the map and drove there in real life, my real life body would require me to seek out food and a place to sleep. I would wander, and likely run into some people and then find out more about a place. Just the nature of life causes that seeking.

Within Second Life, if I’m dropped in my natural curiosity might send me to explore, but for what? There is no defined objective. I don’t have this short list “food, sleep”,  I have an unbounded list “find something cool” which means infinite possibilities, which means infinite choice, which is a close cousin to analysis paralysis, which, with a handy “quit” button, means people exit the world.

While what you can do in Second Life is amazing, the creations are wonderful, the concerts are brilliant, the potential is huge, for the initial starter there is no simple goal to get them started that gives them a place to build from. For those who have stayed in Second Life they’ve come in with a specific purpose, or wandered luckily into a group that gave them a what to do that drew them in. But for those who wander there without such luck or escort it is hard to know where to go and what to do. I would say that this one thing is the largest barrier to coming in to Second Life – without a reason or a focus it is hard to find the why to remain, or to come back.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Punkerella Summers April 20, 2011 at 3:59 am

I agree completely… I play now and then in Second Life, Blue Mars, and even Whirled. I love to make things, so all of them pulled me in fairly easily. But I find that non-creators especially, are just lost and confused without some kind of clear direction and purpose.

It was content creation that sucked me into Minecraft too. At first I didn’t really want to give it a shot (the graphics were a bit of a turn off for me, lol). But, watching my husband play it just gave me the “building” bug. I have now created many new worlds, explored endless freaky caves and filled a ridiculous number of creeper created holes. It is an excellent game.

I really don’t know how to take any of the existing virtual worlds and give them that kind of pull. I was also afraid of combat zones, or just wandering into strange places for that matter. So many of them feel unwelcoming, or look confusing and jarring. And even talking to new people can be intimidating without something to pull you together.

More and more though, it seems to me that groups of people within the game might be better off to pull people in, rather than the LL. A good medieval sim, with a strong story line, clear sense of purpose, good starter gear, quests, etc… might pull in more wow players for example. Provided that it was marketed as a unique role play game rather than trying to sell people on the entire virtual universe at once.

I think it all boils down to the fact that it isn’t that hard to get the creators, but its hard to hold the ones that just come to socialize a bit and harder still to convince the gamers that things like SL are games at all. It might actually be up to us as content creators/scripters/artists to give people that missing direction and purpose if we want these kind of games to succeed. We basically need to give purpose to parts of this amazing sandbox, and make sure that the right people get there 🙂

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