Pimpin’ My Crib in Virtual MTV®

by Alphaville Herald on 27/03/09 at 7:56 am

Points for friending – and your chicks for free

by Sigmund Leominster

Virtual MTV 4

From the network that could be said to have pioneered reality TV comes the unreal Virtual MTV, another 3D virtual world for people like us who are trying to escape from our own versions of the Real World. This latest attempt at establishing a presence in the virtual worlds market is currently in the alpha stage and opened its doors on February 19th, 2009. The original version, called vMTV opened in 2006 and since then, the Viacom-owned company developed several different locations using the There.com platform. Each mini-world was themed after an MTV show, such as Virtual Laguna Beach, Virtual Pimp My Ride, and Virtual Hills.

But in an official press release, MTV announced the closing of the old and the opening of the new. Here’s how they promoted the change:

“In August of 2006 MTV launched its own virtual world where you could watch our shows and live the MTV life, virtually. You’ve sent us your comments and we listened.  We’re excited to let you know that you can now check out a new and improved version of Virtual MTV at virtual.mtv.com!  This new ALPHA version is browser-based and allows you to create an avatar, get your own crib, explore virtual worlds and play games.”

With browser-based applications being the flavor du jour, MTV have clearly taken this to heart by side-stepping the need for dedicated clients à la Second Life. And having already become the virtual wanderer following my recent excursions into Barbie Girls world and WeeWorld, the opportunity to take part in the MTV online experience was too tempting to avoid.

Before you can claim your crib in VMTV, you have to sign up with MTV at their home site. That takes no more than a couple of minutes if you are the sort of person to ignore the legal notices: For the more cautious, here are the documents you are supposed to read:
(a) the  MTV Terms of Use, (b) the MTV Privacy Policy, (c) the MTV User Content Submission Agreement, (d) the Virtual Reality Applications – Terms, (e) the Social Project Terms of Use, (f) the Social Project Privacy Policy and (g) the Social Project Copyright Compliance Policy. 

I opted to skip all these on the basis that I didn’t really expect to end up as a permanent resident and didn’t have an hour to spare. I suspect that one of these documents includes the words “soul,” “devil,” “sold,” and “eternity,” but I could be wrong.

Once I had signed in, I found myself at a page where I could design my avatar. It’s odd that I am now so psychologically tied to my Second Life incarnation that I tried to make my new persona as close to “me” as I could. Sadly, the options for customizing are nowhere close to those of a Second Life avatar. Still, I did manage to darken my skin, attach blond hair, and put on some clothes.

Virtual MTV 1

Siggy Goes “Real World” in MTV’s Virtual World

Sadly, I made some sort of error after hitting “save” because when I appeared in-world, I had reverted to the default avatar – a spectacularly hideous troll with red hair, green pants, and flip-flop sandals. Vomiting down the front of the white shirt would have been an improvement.

Virtual MTV 2

Ultra-unstylish Siggy

I found myself in something called the Buddha Room listening to Christina Aguilera belting out “Ain’t No Other Man.” Clearly Xtina hasn’t visited me in Second Life where there IS another man – one less likely to induce nausea. I also discovered that by performing the simple task of using the arrow keys to move, I earned points. Sweet! 

Points, according to the site, “are what you get in return for doing certain activities in the 3D world. Collect Points to reach higher levels in the 3D World and get gear to pimp out your avatar. Experience really does pay.”

And users can pay, too. The currency for vMTV is the MTV Coin. The current rate of exchange is 200 MTV Coins = $1.00 US. And I use the word “exchange” advisedly because it’s a one-way exchange; you hand over US dollars and MTV hands over Coins. There is no way to sell Coins back to MTV nor can you make money. When you sign on, you get 350 Coins to spend on anything you want – which turns out to be not much. The clothing range is worse than the freebies you can pick up all over Second Life.

…where Style and Imagination part company

For men, there is essentially one shirt but in different colors. No shading, just colors. And the same for women. Although MTV may be trying to play the “cool” card, I’m afraid there’s zero chance of playing the “stylish” card – it’s not even in the deck! This also leads to the observation that people in VMTV look the same. Developing a sense of individuality based on appearance is going to be a significant challenge at best and a complete waste of time at worst. Hell, I couldn’t even get a T-shirt with the MTV logo!
The same can be said of the furniture and add-ons for your Crib. Unlike Second Life, you are given your own “home” in VMTV that you can modify and furnish. However, it is not as lavish as an SL location, having only two walls, a floor, and no roof.

Virtual MTV 3

Siggy in his Crib, chillin’ without his homies

With no scripts, there’s no way to sit down or have sex. Not that I was looking for sex but the lack of genitalia on the default avatar was a bit of a giveaway. I wanted to relax with my feet up on the couch but alas, that’s not currently possible.

You can, however, interact with people – when you find them. On my second trip in, I found myself with a group of five, three of whom were greeters. Greeter Daisy, Greeter Neve, and Greeter Xavier welcomed me profusely and offered me friendship, just as in Second Life. The speed with which these folks offered friendship made me feel special – until I discovered that if you add five people to your list you earn 250 points, and if you end up on the lists of five people you earn 500. So there’s an incentive to be friendly, unlike in Second Life where you can be a completely unsociable bastard and still have a good time.

In truth, the real downer was that there was nothing to do. For all the carping about the failings of Second Life, compared to VMTV, it’s a land of opportunities and activities. After spending a few minutes chatting with the greeters, for the briefest of moments – and I shudder when I say this – I was almost tempted to suggest they “get a life” because this seemed so sterile and pointless. I caught myself in time and refocused. 

Because these folks looked the same and sounded the same, I perceived them as being part of a collective; a virtual Borg with a hive mind and against whom resistance is futile. But somehow I also felt that there was a certain earnestness coming from them. Here were folks who really wanted to make something special happen; who wanted to make VMTV work; who had been around since before this reworking of the world; and who are part of a social network, small as it may be.

I’m not convinced this world will last. It feels like an 80’s platform game and you expect Mario or Donkey Kong to jump across the screen. I am fully aware that this is still in Alpha, one step before Beta, and two steps before going live. But to appeal to more people the folks at MTV are going to have to make some significant changes. The Second Life experience is something of a de facto standard against which other virtual world developers match themselves. And anyone who has experienced Second Life will find Virtual MTV primitive in comparison.

But don’t take my word for it. Maybe I am wrong. It’s easy enough to sign up and visit so you can experience the place yourself. I suggest you do it quickly though, because there’s a good chance that VMTV may end up as VH1 TV program: “Where Are They Now?”

Virtual MTV:   http://virtual.mtv.com
MTV Home:  http://www.mtv.com

3 Responses to “Pimpin’ My Crib in Virtual MTV®”

  1. Darien Caldwell

    Mar 27th, 2009

    “Because these folks looked the same and sounded the same, I perceived them as being part of a collective; a virtual Borg with a hive mind and against whom resistance is futile.”

    Hmm, when I read that LL immediately leaped into my thoughts. Scary…

  2. chris

    Mar 27th, 2009

    LOL. Note the Window Text from the screen cap.

    Drone’s CRIB “ACTION MODE” Then Look at the Picture. Scream’s ACTION! dont’ it!!!

    Maybe why Mtv is dead, and Viacom dying.

    It would be funny if not so pathetic.

    The TOS seems to be the least of their problems in finding anyone to use the thing.

  3. John

    Apr 14th, 2009

    Isn’t it weird that they closed down vMTV, the 3D world, that had thousands up thousands of user-created content, to what looks like a crappy alternative with horrible clothing options and no user-created content.

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