Do you enjoy playing The Sims but wish the characters were all controlled by real humans who might also have sex with you? Do you like using Grindr but wish each man were represented by a clumsy avatar you can drag around with your mouse? Then Moovz, a new “social network” (and hookup app) for gay men around the globe, is just the thing for you. Created by Liav Eliash, Moovz allows users to chat with gay guys next door or across the ocean—all through the rather uncanny medium of Sims-like avatars.
Moovz presents itself as a friendlier, bouncier alternative to Grindr, which is famously sex-focused and does little to facilitate platonic social interactions. Instead of instantly displaying men in your near vicinity, Moovz encourages users to chat with gay men the world over—though you can easily switch over to a proximity search if your internationalist tendencies give way to bodily temptations.
Because we at Outward pride ourselves on fearless investigative journalism, I decided to give Moovz a try. After signing up, I found my avatar plunked down on a digital plaza with a few other men. One of them was Idan Matalon, a very minor Israeli celebrity and—judging from the fact that he appears in every piece of Moovz’s promotional materials—the company’s quasi-covert spokesperson. I couldn’t tell if the rest of the avatars represented real users; none of them responded to my attempts to engage in a chat.
I soon learned that this area is the Moovz “lobby.” You can choose to linger in the lobby of a variety of countries, or if you’re feeling more cosmopolitan, you can haunt the “global” lobby. You can chat with men in the lobby, hug them, or even kiss them. And if you’re satisfied with your lobby experience, you can invite them back to your “room.”
Out of respect for journalistic integrity, I never brought any men (really, avatars) back to my room. But an introductory instructional video hints that your room is where the wild stuff happens. You can take as many avatars to your room as you like, and do whatever you want with them—including video chat.
At some point, if all goes well, you can exchange IRL information with an avatar and move your blossoming friendship beyond the confines of Moovz’s poorly designed environments. Or you can just hook up—which, behind all the gestures toward cosmopolitan internationalism, is probably most Moovz users’ intention. So why turn yourself into an avatar and go through the delicate dance of e-courtship when there’s already a wealth of apps created for the express purpose of facilitating gay hookups? Unless you’ve got a nascent Sims fetish you’re looking to nurture, I can provide no answer to that question. In a world already overflowing with social networks and hookup apps, Moovz adds nothing new to the mix, except the potential for exceedingly awkward cybersex. It’s less appealing than a Grindr grid and more boring than an episode of Looking. Though I should give credit where it’s due: As far as social network/hookup sites go, things can get a lot a creepier.