• Shona McCarthy

IMVU Has Changed: Virtual Vacationing Part 3

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

In many ways, IMVU is worth talking about as a way of traveling and socializing without really doing either. You get to enjoy the use of a 3D avatar existing within 3D environments. This Avatar can do much more than just dance and hold up signs. It can kiss and hug other characters. In certain spots or with certain items and commands, your avatar can form poses alone or with other avatars. If you played IMVU back when it was a relatively new concept the way I did, you might be surprised at what you see what you return now. There is a much better quality of rendering and meshes. The clothing you can dress your avatar in usually features better details, and the base avatars you can choose from when you sign up look much more realistic.

(Sometimes on IMVU I like to visit Bioshock's Rapture. Note that I could have sat my old avatar in that dingey bathtub. I know this because when I hovered my cursor around the room, that yellow spot appeared there. Screen-capped by me, 2020.)

One warning I will issue about IMVU is that it is often the haunt of people seeking sexual activities. I will confess that in my much-younger years, I was one of these people. Why IMVU tends to attract more of this kind of user is down to many factors. For one thing, IMVU makes it exceptionally easy to put together a sexually attractive avatar. In fact, I find most of the outfits in the catalogue uncomfortably revealing. Which is partly why I struggle to get dressed there.

But also, IMVU makes it very easy to chat one-on-one with strangers. You need only click one button, and IMVU will automatically match you up with a stranger to chat with. It can be a great way of meeting new people, and therefore, anonymous partners if you aren't fussy. If you buy Access Pass and then select the Access Pass only option, it makes it particularly easy to solicit chat partners who are more open to sexual activity. Rooms you own are private by default, so you can typically say whatever you want to each other, without fear of being disturbed.

However, if you are in a long-term, long-distance relationship, I have found that IMVU can be a good playground for a wide range of interactions. For couples and friends, there are still many fun activities that can be done in various rooms. Snow ball fights and salsa dancing come to mind. Snowball

(I was finding this conversation highly intellectually stimulating. Until I revealed to the man that I wasn't there for sex and he promptly ended the chat. I have blanked out his username to protect his identity. Note that the small arrows to the right come in handy if you are struggling to learn how to change your viewing angle. Screen-capped by me, 2020.)

If like me, you have outgrown the concept of cybering with strangers and are attempting to have normal conversations, IMVU can be a little frustrating. You might be thinking you're having a good, intelligent conversation with someone only to find they will suddenly drop you out of chat if you tell them you aren't there for cybering. In fact, getting dropped by a chat partner is remarkably common if they are finding you boring, or don't like the look of your avatar. This can be good if you are attempting to get better at dealing with rejection. It also means that you can experiment with how you socialize with fewer risks. If someone really doesn't want to know you, it tends to be fairly cut and dry. If you don't like what someone else is saying, you can duck out on them at the click of a button. Blocking people is also an option on IMVU.

New accounts come with an amount of free hair, skin and clothing options for avatars on IMVU. If you don't like the options provided, you can go to the IMVU store and buy more items with the credits they give you. One of the things that has changed is that IMVU now offers you ways of earning more credits. This wasn't the case when I played ten years ago. Back then, if you wanted more credits you either had to buy them or beg others to gift you what you wanted. This means that IMVU places an inherent limit on how you can customize your Avatar. You can only buy what you can afford. Rooms and furniture exist by a similar standard. This is somewhat frustrating for me. I actually prefered my old account, since I liked how cute and cartoonish my old Avatar was. But on the other hand, some of her clothes are so old that they predate properly curved CG items. In most of her clothes and hairstyles, which I thought looked so cool when I first got them, her hair, shoulders, breasts and buttocks seem to be covered in the little corners that tell you they are early 00's CG.

(I got fed up with digging through the catalog and decided to look at my old wishlist. Even there, I found many of the items embarrassingly outdated. That "Chinese Beauty Hanfu" wasn't looking so beautiful to me anymore. But that hair and those eyes still looked lovely to me. Screencapped by me, 2020.) So, I do found myself spending a great deal of time looking through the IMVU store, trying to find new items I could use to contemporise her. As I did this, I found that the older version of IMVU didn't seem to heat my laptop up as much as the new version. This suggests to me that the older version is less demanding, both technologically and possibly in terms of data. I was using IMVU back when the concept of public rooms anyone could enter was being developed. Back then, many would have struggled with the amount of data required for such an activity. But as times have changed, more and more of these sorts of rooms exist. And it means that if you wish to visit a particular location, you can search for it and visit a representation of it in many cases. However, since some rooms are older, and others newer, the quality can vary immensely. This is just as true of the clothing options in the store currently. This is another thing I've found a little frustrating. So much is hit and miss on IMVU. And while I don't entirely mind the odd foray into the world of vintage gaming, I find that inviting younger friends, who are used to playing more contemporary, high-definition games, a little embarrassing for this reason. It's partly why I was keen to buy at least a few newer items so that I could at least look presentable when I meet my friends, or new people.

(Much of what I find in the IMVU catalog looks like variants on fetish wear to me. Which was fine for the vixen I was trying to be in my late teens. But not so great for the 30 something I am now. But as you can see, the quality of newer items is very high when you can find them. Screencapped by me, 2020.) So far, the best shopping tactic I can find is to only look at featured items in the IMVU store. Then, try to find items that are vaguely like what you want. This is your best chance of finding something well rendered. If you don't like the item enough to pay for it, you can at least visit the store of the designer and see what else they have, knowing it will probably be of a similarly high standard. I find it isn't good enough to simply search through the website version and order the items as "Newest". Even very new items can sometimes be incredibly crap-tacular. Searching for the highest price won't guarantee quality either. That, and the shoes you love aren't always wearable with the pants you have, or buy, or try. This means you can end up chewing up an incredible amount of time simply trying to put together an outfit you like. But, supposing you are a fiend for clothing shopping. Someone who simply can't help themselves. IMVU might be your answer. For under $2 it's possible to buy an entire outfit on IMVU. And unlike clothing in the real world, it will never degrade or need a wash. You just have to accept that technology might advance to the point where your cool clothes become embarrassing in ten years like mine did.

As with any new program, you have to take some time to get used to the controls. But since IMVU is predominantly for socialising, learning how all the actions and triggers work can be a great deal of fun. Some will incidentally appear as you have your conversations. Saying "haha" or "lol" a the start of a sentence will make your avatar laugh, for example.

I found that my old account was unable to make the purchases I wanted to make. So I thought, "What if I try making a note of all the products I like to have on her and then buy them in the new account?" It's a good answer to my problem since it means leaving behind all of the embarrassingly badly rendered items in my old account. Even if it also means leaving behind some fun maps and happy memories. I can always go back and visit when I really miss them.

But moving my old items to my new account wasn't so easy as I thought. Copying and pasting the titles of the items didn't always bring them up in the shop. I still had to search for them. And they worked out to be costly enough that I had to buy new credits. I spent under $10 and still had many credits left over when I was done. This is a fraction of what real-world clothing would have cost me without any of the ethical and environmental concerns that shopping would normally bring. But even then, I found that my new items and my old items weren't fitting together the way I wanted, forcing me to make new purchases I didn't plan on at all.

(My new avatar in one of the new outfits I created for her. I really found the heads that came with her so ugly, so I went and bought the same head that my old avatar had. Right away, I felt as though part of me had come home. Many of the free hairdos I had hated before looked much better on her once I put on those new eyes, as well. Deciding she didn't need to look like me really freed me to try new things. Screen-capped by me, 2020.) After many hours of seeking, I was able to form a few new outfits, which were a curious mix of things my old avatar wore all the time, things that came with the new avatar, things that had been on my old wishlist, and things I bought for this new avatar. In some ways I'm happier that things worked out like this. The new avatar represents a kind of progress I've made away from the identity I had as a 19-year-old, whilst still being true to my own stylistic sensibilities. Since the new avatar comes with so many hairstyles, I'll be able to continue to experiment with my avatar for a long time. With that in mind, my advice to all those who want to do what I did, stick to neutrals in your purchases so that you can mix and match colours more easily, but still have one or two statement items which could be worn with more ordinary-looking hairstyles. This way you'll be able to mix and match without having to make as many purchases. Also, if you're on the fence about an item, put it in your wishlist so that you can look at it later and suffer from less buyers remorse.

(My new avatar, dressed more like me, in "Paris". I'm wearing a kind of floral-antler headdress I've wanted to wear in real life, but couldn't find with such perfect proportions, or at a price I could afford. Screen capped by me, 2020.) In order to asses the viability of IMVU as a form of virtual tourism, I decided to take my avatar to see what I think is the most popular tourist location in the world, the Eiffel Tower. Upon arriving, I found that someone had built the room to be the location of their dream wedding. Yellow dots marking dance and make-out spots littered the massive area, and a horse and Cinderella-style carriage waited right in front of the tower. When I got into the driver's seat of the carriage, it actually began to move forward to a purpose-built wedding area. Much like my avatar, the whole scene was formed out of a mix of good-quality CG and hackier, earlier iterations. Looking at this virtual permutation of myself, I realized that she was dressed in items I've wanted to wear but couldn't find in the real world, or items I feel too self-conscious to wear in public. I began to remember what it was about IMVU that made me love it so much in my youth. Above all, IMVU is a place where dreams can come true; where the things you wish you could do become things you, in a way, can. So, IMVU doesn't provide me with the free, easy, silly interactions I find in VR Chat. But IMVU is definitely worth looking into if you do want to cultivate a more fully fleshed-out and realized virtual life. IMVU is the best option for exploring who your ideal self and life would be.

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