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A look at other virtual wolds: IMVU

By admin | Juli 25, 2007

imvu0.jpgI decided to give other virtual worlds a more systematic look. I started with IMVU, because I know someone who is using it. Now IMVU is less a virtual world than a 3D chat, and it is advertised as this. Yet it shares many features with Second Life. You can buy in game currency, you can create and sell assets, you can customize your avatar and its surrounding. Actually the well known SL design studio Anshe Chung also offers content for IMVU, one more reason why I wanted to check this out.

I spent about a week in IMVU now, so I do not claim to be an expert, this is just a summary of my first impressions and an account of what happened since I decided to join.

imvu.jpgTo do IMVU justice, you have to rather compare it to other IMs. Actually it reminded me a lot of ICQ, the buddy list that sits on your desktop looked remarkably familiar. What is added to this is a 3D window where you can chat with people. Like on ICQ, you can have multiple chats up at the same time, so you can be in different locations at once.

The more cuddly, catroonish look of IMVU sets it apart from SL. To me it is fun for a change. Yet if everyone in SL seems to be in his twenties, everyone in IMVU seems to be a teenager. And this notion, derived from outer appearance, isn’t completely wrong.

Every user gets a homepage created for him or her upon joining. These homepages are easy to reconfigure and a really nice Web 2.0 toy. A large part of user activity in IMVU constitutes of visiting each otehrs pages. If you like a page, you can invite the owner into a chat or send him or her an invitation to become your buddy.

imvu2.jpgAs a standard, this homepage will display your age and RL location, at least what you have given as your RL location and age when you sigend up. This came as a bit of a shock to a seasoned SL user like me, where my RL is protected by game the game features and the TOS, unless I decide to display any of it.

Yet it is probably a good feature for IMVU, as this is clearly not adults only. Actually if you browse through the homepages it gives you a feeling you are not just old, but already dead, at least if you are older than 25.

I also blame the very young age of many users to the rather poor chat experiences I had so far. In one out of all the chats I had so far I was able to start something that would deserve the name “conversation” at all. To defend younger users of IMVU I should add that the girl I had this conversation with was 18, according to her home page, so it is probably not a good idea to overgeneralize. Yet IMVU was one of the first chats/communities/virtual world were other users invited me to a chat and started insulting me right away. Now if this person then is 13 or 14 according to his or her homepage, it is probably only fair to attribute this to immaturity.

Now I experienced griefing and immature or offensive behaviour in Second Life as well, the last one especially especially in places where many newbies hang around, so it may alos be typical for people who still have to learn their way around and proper etiquette in a virtual world. For some it may also take some time to fully understand that behind any avatar there is a real life person whos feelings can be hurt.

The presense of many teenagers in IMVU will inevitably raise another question, one rather familiar to Second Life residents: How about mature content? In theory, there is a simple answer: IMVU content rated as “general audience” must follow a loosely PG-13 guideline. Content that would fall under R has to be marked as restricted and can only be seen, bought and used by users of IMVU who hold an access pass. An access pass can be bought by users of legal age for 19.95 U$. Does this ring a bell with you, if you are an SL user? Just one word: “age verification”.

Actually, although IMVU is free, a lot of additional services cost extra. To register your name costs $ 9.95, and you will have to register your name to be able to register as a developer, not sure, if this would come at yet another extra fee. And you have to be a registered developer to gain access to the tools that would allow you to create content for IMVU.

imvu3.jpgAs far as I can tell, the ratings and age restrictions are mostly a farce, at least based on what I have seen yet. I felt like I was exposed to a lot more mature content without looking for it than in Second Life. There may be less nudity and surely no visible genitalia. Many users will probably see the cartoon style images as less offensive than a more natural look, but to me it rather had the opposite effect. After browsing homepages for a while and seeing not only dozens, but hundreds of pictures of blond, big eyed girls that look like a cross over of a three year old child and barbie, often dressed in provocative outfits, depicted hugging and kissing made me feel a bit sick. I went to see places that advertised age play in Second Life when this was still tolerated, so I know I am not over sensitive in this matter.

I see some disadvanted in Second Life’s policy regrading children (not allowed at all), teenagers (allowed on Teen Grid) and adults (allowed on Main Grid). It poses sever restrictions on educational projects and makes it impossible for parents and children to play together, for example. But after my visit to IMVU, I do appreciate it. It also convinced me that displaying age and location of player ond avatar on the homepage is a good idea, if you ever use IMVU, make it a routine to always check the homepage of anyone you chat with first.


You can find me on IMVU, if you like. If you sign up through this link, I will get a sign up bonus. Such advertising may be a bit shameless, but I regretted it when I only learned later these sign up links exist and I missed the opportunity to secure a few credits for a friend by using his link.


Topics: VR |


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