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imstar* turns instant messaging into an immersive adventure with games, life experiences, and lifelike avatars.

Win Veronica Mars Season One DVDs Courtesy of Blogcritics and Imstar*!

What do you get when you cross instant messaging with The Sims? Something a lot like imstar*, a new AIM-compatible service that broadens plain old instant messaging into an immersive experience with many of the elements of an online role-playing game.

Instead of a mere screen name and Buddy Icon, with imstar* you create a lifelike, three-dimensional, full-body avatar for which you specify in detail the facial features, skin tone, hair, body type, clothes and accessories. Barbie doll owners never had it so good. (I’m talkin’ to you, Chester. You too, Jeremy.)

When chatting with your imstar*-enabled girlfriends you’ll see each others’ avatars. No need to indicate your current mood with words: if you’re bored, happy, or angry, give your avatar the appropriate facial expression. And she doesn’t just stand there pouting or grinning: she can dance, jump, and groove. (Friends who are on plain old AIM will see your avatar as your Buddy Icon, but it won’t move and groove; earn more points by getting your friends to sign up with *imstar.)

Cool-looking avatars are just the beginning. imstar* is a whole virtual world. Play games, earn virtual cash called imBUX, and use it to “shop” for clothes, shoes, even contact lenses, which your avatar can then sport as you desire (and trade with your friends, since, just like in real life, a desirable item might suddenly no longer be available!). And just like real clothes, your possessions wear out eventually and you have to get new ones.

Naturally, imstar* has layers and levels. You advance by playing Games and having Experiences. You can watch the demos and sign up here. Then come back and answer the Veronica Mars trivia questions below. The first reader to email me the correct answers to all three questions wins a Veronica Mars Season One DVD set courtesy of imstar* and Blogcritics.

1. Name the mascot of Neptune High.

2. Who did Veronica discover had been switched at birth?

3. Name three people associated with Buffy the Vampire Slayer who have appeared on Veronica Mars.

Email the answers to jsobel123 at Yahoo dot com.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is a Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases.Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires.Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.

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