Teens and Virtual Worlds, more on the future….

If anyone’s wondering if virtual worlds are the next social frontier for teens, they might want to look at the evidence.

[See link to article for more on evidence]

But there are other worlds in existence, including Teen Second Life with 40,000+ members, as well as new worlds in development. Lego’s working on a kids’ world that will add the social element to its
creative construction focus. It will join worlds for kids already in place: e.g., Whyville.net and There.com (even Neopets, ClubPenguin, Habbo, and Cyworld have virtual-world elements). Many older teens play in the more game-like World of Warcraft, which has battles to fight and levels to attain.

MTV has all kinds of virtual-world plans – worlds tied to its titles in TV land. It’s planning a Virtual Pimp My Ride, which it will link by virtual highway to existing worlds Virtual Laguna Beach and Virtual Hills. “These take the story lines of hit shows Laguna Beach and The Hills, respectively,” CNET reports “and weave them into a large, public 3D digital environment in which users can meet the shows’ stars, or “live” the lifestyles of the
programs
.”

BlogSafety Community: Social networking meets virtual worlds …

This completely blows up my theory the other day about Teens & virutal worlds…

I had said that I didn’t really understand why MTV was using Virtual Worlds to reach it’s core audience.

MTV has such a crazy fanbase– the shows have a mix of flavors: frat guy/popular dumb girl/celebrity to save the world — peppered with popular music and geared towards creating new pop culture. Most of the older teens/college kids watching MTV that I’VE talked to watch it for the “show me what’s HOT, show me what’s NOW” so they can sit on their dorm bed, or mom’s couch, and brainlessly tune out. It’s time to fill up the cereal bowl when the “MTV news” breaks come on at 10 to the hour. I have a hard time believing that they’d eagerly sign up to hang out in a virtual lounge catering to a high school-based show like “Virtual Laguna Beach” with others who eagerly admit that they live by LB. What teen do you know openly admits to liking ANYTHING like that?

Why is MTV trying to push their viewers from couch potatoes & music lovers & web surfers (which doesn’t require social committment other than a message board option here or there) into a virtual world based on socializing with people who openly admit they love that show about those blonde-high-school-girls-who-think-they’re-famous-and-hot? The basic lure you’re using on your audience is “hey, hang out in this Virtual world… it will be a sexy time with sexy high schoolers and sexy non-high schoolers”

There’s no game there. Nothing real or tangible. Just “hot” fantasy social scenarios for identity-masked-fans aged:


MTV has experienced ratings growth over the last two years
among our target audience of 12-34 year-olds.

I think my main problem is a content one:

Virtual worlds driving viewers to join in so the audience can pretend they TOO are rich, young, sexy gossips who can cyber-socializes with other virtually-hot pretenders while sipping drinks around a hot tub party: all of this based upon a world that’s touted as “real California.”

Weird, if not slightly creepy… and overall confusing. But– whatever for MTV’s brand loyalty, right? And all those product-placements (advertising in virtual worlds = big $$)

My problem stems from the community– “If you build it, they will come” right? But who? why? when? why? who? etc. I’d love to know if the kids participating in Virtual Laguna Beach tell their friends at school about it. And if there’s a certain connotation that comes along with a classmate you openly admits to joining in on a virtual world like VLB or VTH. And “Virtual Pimp My Ride” That’s just funny.

TEEN LIFE however has a different vibe. You know you’re going to a virtual world based on imagination. Your buying what you’re expecting to buy– to be whatever you want, however you want, where ever you want within that world. You’re not expected to be a “hot teen” or a “high schooler” You can be a bloody bird man if you feel like it– and no one within that world is going to judge you for it.

I haven’t talked to any kids that are enrolled in teen life, but I have checked out some of the moderator’s blogs based on cool projects happening in Teen life. I am going to try to get some kids in office to talk about their life on Teen Life and how it applies to their real sense of “self” — both personally and in regards to IRL– friends, family, school, etc.

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  1. July 13, 2007 at 4:10 pm

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