Virtual Laguna Beach is set to launch from MTV, where already 22,000 people are signed up to participate in the latest iteration of There.com (it is designed by the same folks). Several hundred of the first subscribers will be designated lifeguards, avatars who greet new online arrivals. Not so much an offshoot of the "reality" show, Laguna Beach: The Real OC, so much as a trumped-up chatroom, this virtual world promises to expand the already nearly ubiquitous idea of watching yourself in the form of an electronic self.
"MTV speaks uniquely," says Judy McGrath, the Networks' chief exec, "to a group of people who are endlessly fascinated with watching themselves."
Soon residents will be able to buy a car and house for Gold membership fees; Platinum will secure VIP access to nightclubs. In addition to Virtual Laguna Beach, two other "worlds" are planned to be launched at the same time. VMTV will allow visitors to club hop, buy music, watch videos, sing karaoke and start their own bands, while Logoworld, an offshoot of the homosexual cable channel Logo, will exist primarily for gays and lesbians (so much for coexistence, eh?). Yet, why do they separate into three worlds what could suffice in one? The "worst" anyone can do in any of them is ohmygosh kiss.
"It's Catholic school kissing," explains a senior vp at MTV, possibly referring to relations between priests and kids, "the lips touch, but the bodies don't." I guess nobody told MTV that virtual means "not real".
In other words, there will be no hot coffee served in the phantom electrons of MTV online, not like it is in the United States of Planet Rockstar. When it came out the the last Grand Theft Auto game (created by Rockstar Games) had a hidden feature called "Hot Coffee", where your avatar could bump artifacts with other (female) characters, the ensuing storm of righteous indignation resulted in a recall of the product. Yet Rockstar can truthfully say that long before now it created the kind of "worldly" experience of buying cars and houses, dancing all night, making friends and diversifying your wardrobe; the difference between it and MTV's version is that, given the proper amount of effort, one can sleep with beautiful women. If that isn't real world, I don't know what is.