Avatars United. Where your MMO selves go to hang outJust about all of us have played MMOs or been involved in some sort of virtual world like Second Life. You play in these worlds for a year or two, meet some interesting people, upgrade your system and then wander off to the newest and shiniest MMO to come out. What about those friends you’ve left behind though? How will they find you in your latest incarnation? If of course, you want to be found.

If you do want to be found, you’re going to want to go check out Avatars United featured by ArsGeek reviews.

Avatars United is a combination of social website, friend finder and virtual identity storage. Here you can upload images of your avatars from numerous online environments, organize them, designate one avatar as your primary avatar and write a bit of biographical information. You can also create groups and join like minded folks from the same MMO and server. In their own words:

Avatars United was initiated in 2007 by a group of childhood friends sharing a common passion for immersive online worlds. The project is built in recognition of the fact that strong bonds and close friendships actually can be tied within virtual spaces and has furthermore gone one step further in recognizing virtual personas as personas in their own right by building a community for avatars only. As such, Avatars United is a free community website bringing avatars from all online worlds together.

Contrary to commonly held beliefs we think gaming is a social phenomenon and are hoping that Avatars United will prove us right. By and large, we felt that the “out of game” social aspect of online games had been neglected. With tools to communicate with, find and track old virtual friends and share experiences from virtual realms Avatars United wishes to stand out as a community highlighting the social aspect of life within virtual worlds.

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Think on this. If you’ve got some buddies past from Everquest who you’d love to coax into playing WoW with you, but you can’t find them, how would you do that? Facebook? A Google search and a desperate hope that they posted to some obscure forum somewhere under their Avatar’s name in the correct game? If persistent virtual worlds are going to stick around, a service like Avatars United could come in awfully handy. Now in beta, this is a great time to stop by and create an account. Not only can you say 10 years from now “I was in on the beta of Avatars United” but you can also offer helpful comments and ideas to shape this into a community you’d love to hang out at.

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I recently shot a few questions off to Thor Olof Philogène, the CEO of Enemy Unknown (with digs for coolest company name I’ve come across this month) who are the corporate masters of Avatars United.

ArsGeek: Lots of people come up with ideas for the next big thing – or even the next cool thing on the internet. What made you and the other developers of Avatars United decide to follow through with these ideas and create Avatars United?

Thor: Though we obviously believe in the potential of Avatars United we never designed it to be “the next big thing”.* *More than anything else, we built Avatars United to provide a toolset we ourselves would have used. Great friendships are tied within virtual spaces yet we felt there was a lack of a single tool to help keep track and share experiences with them.

ArsGeek: Computers and people have long been on a convergent path – computers are becoming more pervasive and the number of people using them to connect to persistent online worlds is growing rapidly. What’s Avatars United’s role in this convergence?

Thor: One of the many results of this convergence between computers and people has been the creation of virtual identities within persistent online worlds. By building a community for avatars only, Avatars United has gone one step further in recognizing these virtual identities as personas in their own right. Most people have different identities within different social settings and most often have different nicknames within the family, at work and with their friends. Avatars United’s role is that of a social tool for your virtual identity.

ArsGeek: Where do you see Avatars United in 5 years?

Thor: 5 years is a long period of time in Internet years. It is however fair to assume that over such a long period of time synthetic worlds will become even more mainstream and that massive amounts of users will have migrated to new online worlds.

With those changes Avatars United will hopefully still be around in the shape of a community driven, much more flexible of use enhanced social tool for virtual identities.

ArsGeek: Do you plan on encouraging Avatars United affiliations in persistent online worlds, such as sites in Second Life or Guilds on any MMORPGS?

Thor: Yes, as long as it is community driven. As a matter of fact we encourage anyone wanting to get involved with Avatars United to contact us.

ArsGeek: Lets get old school for this one. What are some highlights from your video game past? Which titles got you into gaming in the first place and why?

Thor: Tough one, I would have to pick one title for each era though.

· Defender of the Crown (C64)

· Railroad Tycoon for (Amiga)

· X-Com series ( early 90s PC)

As I see it all these three games are precursors of their era in terms of gaming experiences. What they brought with them no one had previously offered before.

A side note would be that I actually discovered these games a long time ago with the very same people that I now work with on Avatars United today.

ArsGeek: Any thoughts on including or creating a sister site to highlight pen and paper games (classic RPGs) and using it as a resource for RPGers to find old friends and meet new ones?

Thor: Ideas like that are great! Hopefully when we have finished improving our current site and move away from the beta testing stage we will be able to jump onto projects like that. Again we wish to encourage people with ideas and motivation to contact us for any such project.

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