Messing with your VIRTUAL Mind…

Virtual Lower East Side (VLES)is an online community that has created some interesting replicas of various locations from New York. Create an avatar to participate in the virtual world, and network with others.With the success and allure of games such as the SIMS, Sony Home and Second Life, it’s easy to see why more niche avatar communities are expected to pop up. The quality of VLES is good for a web-based, free application, and the options are enough so that users will be happy. Think of it as an interactive, better-animated Meez that can operate within a community. You can chat with other avatars you encounter while roaming the streets, ignore them, and even report them for bad behavior.What’s great about VLES is the potential for harnessing the buying power of teens and young adults, as VLES could take after Second Life with its ecosystem and the success of its flourishing marketplace. You’ll notice that VLES already has an American Apparel store replica, and I can only imagine the potential for companies to really latch onto the idea of having an online presence within VLES. Having an open source format for the continued development of VLES means that exact
replicas of cities around the world could be better maintained, and the commercial potential for brands and indie artists alike could be great.

Avatars Roam a Virtual Replica of the Lower East Side

Okay… so I was just trying to explain the craziness of this idea to Marie and realized how warped my Virtual Brain has gotten.

So I was saying to Marie, “Yeah, and VLES would have virtual real estate… replica stores in the EXACT place you might find it on the
Lower East Side if you were phycially shopping. So, while I’m tooling around the VLES, I could stop on by my favorite shop and pick something up before heading on to other places in VLES.” And Marie replied, “Would you be buying real stuff or stuff for your avatar?” I paused, finger to the chin in thought, and replied, “Ya know, perhaps both? How great would that be? A heck of a lot easier than stepping out my front door to shop down the street.”

…And then I stopped and looked at Marie cross-eyed. Why would I go to a virtual world to go to a shop to buy myself something real (not just stuff for my virtual world) when I could (old school?) surf on over to the store’s actual non-VW website (is that like web 1.0 now?). So yeah, silly me… so wrapped up in the future of online communities I forgot all about the fundamental online shopping route of today. How tendy and ahead of the curve am I? Scary scary scary.

So, as I think about the future of the web, I realize that surfing directly into online website/shops seems so dated. It’s all about brands existing in the virtual WORLDS (not just web)– and those Virtual Worlds are starting to dress up a lot like our real one.

As my excitement increased for VLES, I was conned into thinking about how EASY it would be to shop in a virtual world– you know, it’s a bright day and I’m visiting my favorite street… except my avatar is doing the work for me as she virtually skips down the virtual sidewalk into the virtual replica of my favorite store, picking out virtual representations of sweaters that I virtually want, except not virtual… confused yet? You should be. We’re blending worlds now baby. BLENDING WORLDS. Virtual, meet, IRL. IRL, meet Virtual. Look how much we’re making in common for you both. Doppleganger. Bizarro Superman. Single White Female? Let’s hope not.
Perhaps its what they want to do with Google maps– use every day life as their muse in an ultimate virtual world that will be just as accurate as real life… 3D online experience of what you could get by just walking out your door. It’s very Second life… except Second Life isn’t a direct copy of an actual street in an actual city with actual replicas of stores.

Perhaps the Matrix isn’t so far off after all? We’ll all just plug ourselves into the web and our avatars can live life for us. Zoinks. Or maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself. Hmm.

This is why I like the U13 approach to Virtual worlds and not MTV’s replica world approach. The U13 VWs are incredibly imaginative and bonkers and based in fantasy. MTV’s is based on replica of the aestheticly pleasing society (look just like the girls from Laguna Beach and hit on guys at the local club!! Uck.) Kids are encouraged to enjoy a world that could NEVER be like their own, while still learning from social situations. Teens in these MTV-esque worlds are conned into wishing they were someone else in a real life experience, and disliking themselves even more when they disconnect from their virtual paradise back into their ugly real world.

Anyway… just thought it was worth noting the quick movement to virtual mentality. Has anyone else fallen into the trap yet?

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