Until I discovered SL, the acronym ‘HUD’ was not one that often found its way into my everyday life. Back then, the only time it might have crept in would perhaps be in the context of a discussion relating to fighter pilots and the technologies they employed to do an inverted 4 gee loop at mach 2 and 20 000 feet, (yes, my knowledge of aeronautical manoeuvres is entirely based upon Top Gun and Jonathan Livingston Seagull!)

And that would have been entirely appropriate, since the original ‘heads up displays’ were indeed the province of fightet pilots and astronauts. Today, you’re just as likely to find them in a car, but you’re probably more familiar with the concept – although not strictly true to its proper form – due to SL and other video games.

The idea is simple – a pop-up menu, control or representation that allows you to interact with your environment, without taking your attention away from what’s in front of you. However, it’s a fine balancing act between building functionality and maintaining simplicity – ideally, a HUD is a fully self-contained, all-encompassing system – a one-stop shop, if you like, but instead what we tend to have in SL is a multiplicity of HUDs cluttering our screens, each concerned with a particular element of our virtual existence.

Consider a typical scenario – there’s a HUD for your AO, your dances, another for your poses, then there’s the one you need to manage your alphas so you can clothe your mesh body. Oh, then there’s the two Bento HUDs, one for your head and the other for your hands. Throw in a couple of extras for facelights and wearables, and you have a screen that’s mostly HUD and very little else!

It doesn’t stop there: The HUD dependant avatar these days is going to be spending an awful lot of time pressing buttons, tweaking settings and making adjustments, just to interact with their environment and the people around them. I can’t help thinking that there must be a growing number of people out there in the virtual world who are spending more time messing with their HUDs than they are doing anything else. Surely that can’t be the way forward?

As things stand, even at present, I know a number of people for whom HUD juggling is already a right old pain in the gluteus maximus. More and more frequently I hear people complaining that they’ve spent hours trying to get their alphas to fit their clothing and bemoaning the fact that when they swap outfits that their HUDs lose all their settings. There are, of course, ways around this, but the end result is a whole host of HUDs – so many, in fact, that at some point someone is bound to develop a HUD to manage all your HUDs… Where will it all end?

It’s a bleak day indeed when the very controls that are supposed to ease out virtual existence are the very ones that turn it into a nightmare, but I really can’t see any alternative if SL creators continue to build their products in their way we’ve become accustomed to. It’s quite likely that in the not too distant future, we may be spending our entire time inworld frantically clicking buttons and adjusting settings for hours, simply to grab a couple of minutes of free time just to do the things we take for granted at the moment… Unfortunately, everyone else will be doing exactly the same; which I guess will spell the end for SL as a social platform, but at least we’ll all look amazing, even if everyone else is far too busy adjusting their own appearance to notice us!

s. x

And she screamed out kicking on her side and said,
I’ve lost control again.
And seized up on the floor, I thought she’d die.
She said I’ve lost control.
Joy Division – She’s Lost Control

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