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Second Life

The players in Second Life are called avatars. Avatars chat by typing or talking. However, you rarely hear anyone use voice in public areas. Voice might become more popular in the future as people become more tech-savvy and start using microphones.

You move your character with keyboard and mouse. You can explore the vast lands of Second Life by walking, running or flying. For longer distances you can use teleporting. All you have to do is pick a location from the map and click teleport.

The graphics look very nice, but it takes a long time to load, when you move to a new area. Most of the content in Second Life is created by users just like you. Some content creators are motivated by money, but some do it just for fun.

Most people in Second Life speak fluent English. Second Life also has an automatic translator, which enables communication between languages.

Second Life is mainly used by adults, but there are some teenagers, too. Every land area has a rating of either general (G), moderate (M) or adult (A). General is suitable for everyone. Moderate contains somewhat mature content and behaviour. Adult areas require age verification and are playgrounds for adult activities.

In addition to the basic character movement controls, you have the option to use avatar animations. These are automatic moves that you launch using a HUD (heads up display), which is a control panel. One of the common animations is dancing (either alone or with a partner). In addition to animations, HUDs are used for many other things that need a control panel, such as gaming.

You can create any kind of avatar, but it takes practise to learn how to use the modification menus. Changing avatar appearance is somewhat difficult for a newbie. But the huge amount of features is one of the things that makes Second Life so popular. The quickest way to get a cool avatar is to go to the marketplace and either buy an avatar as a whole or in parts (like buying hair, skin, body type and clothes separately).

If you don't have extra money, you can earn some in Second Life. The inworld money is called Linden dollars. Talented designers and builders make good money by selling items to other players. Additionally Second Life has a strong adult industry offering all kinds of services.

Many companies have their own virtual stores. A virtual world such as SL can enhance the awareness of a brand. Second Life has even parts of real cities. What a great way to check out your next holiday resort.

Second Life is all about chatting with your buddies and getting to know people. It is also a safe environment to learn social skills. You will sometimes get approached by others, especially if you look cool. Your conversation doesn't have to make sense. Just start talking about random things happening around you. Remember, it is just a game. Have fun!

After you have installed the game and logged in, it's time for the tutorial. There are many resources for newbies. Inworld tutorials are interactive but cover only the basics. You can find more thorough information in the help section at secondlife.com. If you prefer watching videos, you can go to YouTube and search for Second Life tutorials. Linden Lab (the owner of Second Life) has created hundreds of useful how to videos and there are thousands of user-created videos as well. But don't worry, you will learn all you need to know over time. And feel free to ask other players. They are usually happy to help.

Second Life video review

http://www.secondlife.com (opens in a new window)
 

IMVU

The avatars of IMVU have a cute look. But tweaking their appearance is very limited. Every avatar starts with a set of basic items and clothing. To further customize your avatar, you need to use credits in the marketplace (IMVU catalog). Depending on your membership level you are given a number of promotional credits at the start.

Although IMVU is very easy to start playing, it can be somewhat intimidating. Some people are nicer than others. You should spend time exploring the world. Eventually you will find friendly people. As a newbie, you should respect senior members and be sure to follow rules and guidelines.

Chatting is done by typing. Speech bubbles appear over your avatar and you also see a chat log on the lower left of the screen. Additionally you can whisper to one person. This private message feature does not work between two free accounts. The other person must be a VIP.

VIP membership costs 10 dollars per month. The real cost however is only half of that, because VIPs get 5000 credits each month. Free accounts have a Guest-prefix in their name, which is quite annoying. If a VIP stops paying for the membership, he too will get the Guest-prefix back in his name. If you are into adult content, you should get an AP (access pass) account. It costs a one time fee of 20 dollars.

The chatting areas are called rooms. There is no world map, because rooms are not connected to each other. They are created and controlled by users just like you. Free accounts can create one room. VIPs can have up to 10 rooms. The room owner is the moderator and can kick those who don't know how to behave. You can be in many rooms at once, but of course then it can be hard to keep up with the chat. You find interesting rooms by searching with an appropriate keyword. For example, if you want to hang out on a beach, search for beach. You can also do a people search by selecting the gender, age, country and membership level. IMVU will then try to connect you with a compatible chatting partner.

Avatar movement is a bit limited. You can only stand in a predefined spot, set by the room creator. Depending on the purpose of the room, each spot might have a different pose or animation, such as dancing. Some rooms are small, whereas others can be vast areas.

Although IMVU is primarily a social chat platform, it also has a wide variety of cool minigames. There are both single and multiplayer games. If you want quickly new friends, go and play Draw My Thing. It is a hilarious game, where players draw a picture and others try to guess what he's trying to draw. But before accepting any friend requests be sure to check their profile and see whether they meet your requirements.

IMVU has its own music store where you can buy music to be used in your virtual rooms. Unfortunately it is only available for VIPs.

Earning credits ranges from taking care of your virtual pet to actual work of completing surveys and doing peer reviews of the catalog items created by other users. In any case, it takes time and effort. You need to think carefully whether you rather just use real money to pay for avatar clothes and features.

IMVU video review

http://www.imvu.com (opens in a new window)
  

ourWorld

ourWorld is a fun interactive two dimensional virtual world for children. You can use the chat feature, if you are at the age of 13 or above. Those kids under 13 need to get a permission from their parents to use the messaging system. There's also a chat filter to prevent the use of any bad words.

If you become a paying Resident you can level your character up much faster. Leveling is done by getting more Flow which is the energy in ourWorld. You earn Flow by playing games.

The higher level you are the more benefits you have. For instance you have cool dance moves and better equipment. You also gain more Flow much quicker.

You move your avatar by clicking with mouse.

ourWorld video review

http://www.ourworld.com (opens in a new window)