Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Artistic Evolution of Chat

Somewhere in between the fantasy escapism of World of Warcraft, the uber realistic Second Life, and the stale emotionless instant messenger text based AIM, Live, and Gchat there is IMVU. This platform takes the roll playing and crafting elements that Online Role Playing Games are known for and gives them an artistic twist with a touch of chatlike realism.

IMVU is special because, as with Second Life, it allows users to create in game content such as clothing and environments. This is similar to crafting in WOW only it isn't so templatized - literally anything can be created and sold. What's more, the chat environment of IMVU has a rating system that helps separate kids from adults and even allows for R rated content for verified users! Who hasn't chatted about sex online? IMVU lets you act and look sexy too, provided that your age has been verified ;)

Video of an IMVU hottie in a leopard print thong giving a lap dance to Sexy Back by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake... Imagine the possibilities.

If all of this sounds more like a game than a chat service it might be because the creator of IMVU, Will Harvey, created an MMORPG similar to Second Life called "There" that ended up failing several years back. He and his team decided that virtual worlds, while being fun to customize and explore, didn't provide the same level of accessibility and realism that chat does... On the flip side, chat has traditionally been limited in the way messages are conveyed (smiley face anyone?) It's pretty easy to misinterpret squiggly black lines and dots. Also, historically chat has been used by people who already know each other in real life or have a more likely potential for meeting, so the IMVU approach keeps that realism but adds a layer of artistic fun and expression like a game.

An "individualized" avatar that a user has customized to match their own style and interests can really change the dynamics of a chat session. Even before a single word is spoken, the avatar can be given a mood to act out or the hair style and clothing can be made to for something. Even the environment where the avatar is having the conversation can have an impact on how it is interpreted and what the mood and tone of the conversation is.

The artistic evolution that IMVU has sparked in online chat is akin to what Cafepress has done for clothing or blogger for personal websites. It has empowered those who might have only been low level consumers to take on the roll of a creator. It has also allowed for digital consumption (which is a lot easier on the environment than tangible consumerism). In the bling-happy world that we all seem to live in, where expression is such a big deal, IMVU is an affordable way to have one's ride "pimped" so-to-speak. It invites preps, goths, geeks, and anyone else to fit themselves in and express... It realy reminds me of the Bratz dolls that tapped into a huge base of Black, Hispanic, and other diverse minority girls by reshaping the look of their product to match their audience. In IMVU, the audience shapes the product for themselves which is even better. But... it's not for everyone, for those of you who prefer clothing and customizations in the non-digital world, swing on by ABSTRACTmall and check out our threadzzzz otherwise, I'll see you in IMVU.

Bratz diversity dolls are "gangsta yo" in a sweet, cute sort of way... Reminds me of the Spice Girls!

That's right, even an exotic alpaca farmer in southern Paraguay can create a lifelike avatar in IMVU... Just make sure you're running Windows on that solar powered laptop of yours.

This screen was taken from the IMVU tutorial sequence

posted by Court @ 9:31 AM |


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Created to empower, connect, and influence up and coming artists; the aM Network operates much like a not-for-profit. Providing the technical framework to support a new generation of alternative art, aM and it's subsidiaries (including ABSTRACTmall, ABSTRACTcore and interACTiVE) arm themselves with a graphically balanced product stock and then deliver them via the sleekest, most creative and most secure system possible. Forwarding the creative agenda »