Real pride in a virtual world

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The social media site and 3D virtual world IMVU is celebrating Gay Pride Month with a new feature: weddings, which included marriage equality right from the start.

The company’s headquarters are in the San Francisco Bay Area, and within the game world Pride is taking center stage; the in-game store is offering limited-edition Pride gear, and an online global “block party” is happening on June 28. This year, players also had a new way to celebrate love; a month before Pride 2013, a new release gave IMVU characters the option of getting married.

As a game that has more in common with Second Life than World of Warcraft, while putting together your own good looks is a big part of the fun, the main purpose of IMVU (which does not actually stand for anything) is about making real connections with people that you wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise. You can reinvent yourself completely—or come as you are.

Senior Manager Abby Reyes told 429Magazine, “We know that marriage equality is an issue today in the real world, but in IMVU, we welcome people of all genders to join and be ‘married’ through a new feature called Marriage Package. We have a number of users—both LGBT and straight—who’ve made deep and meaningful connections in the virtual sphere… IMVU aims to foster a safe space for our users to express themselves and connect with other users globally in the form of 3D avatars.”

While not every virtual marriage is between two people in a real romantic relationship, online or off, Reyes said that some in-game couples “took that into real life. After their IMVU marriage, some of our users are even ready to head to the real life altar.”

One such couple’s story is that of “INCIINED” (Angie) and “DEFICIT” (Drea). The two were best friends on IMVU for a year before officially getting together in December 2012; Angie wrote that “When I tell you that [our wedding]was the best day of my life I truly mean it. She’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Another is “Squittlez” (Alicia) and “IEatSquittlez” (Nancy). After over two and a half years together on IMU, where they met, and an in-game wedding, they’re planning on marrying in real life, too. Alicia wrote, “If it were not for IMVU I never would have met the love of my life [and]adding the IMVU wedding package was just the final step before we make it a real world marriage.”

According to a fact sheet from the company, more than 14% of all IMVU marriages are between same-sex avatars.

As in real life, marriage does include certain benefits; profiles are linked together and a new “life status” displayed on both users’ profile cards. Additionally, unlike the now-defunct Sims Social, married characters have a shared room to decorate. (In the interest of maintaining marital bliss, they also keep their own spaces.) The Marriage Package, which costs $29.99, also includes marriage announcements that players can personalize and two Name Change tokens.

Through the end of the month, IMVU’s Photo Stream, where community members can share and showcase their IMVU photos, will be featuring Pride-themed photos; players can also select a Pride-themed frame for their default pictures.

On June 28th, the two weeks of festivities will wrap up with the official “Block Party,” where players can gather to party in Pride-themed rooms.

429Magazine

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