It feels as though I’m taking a naïve approach to social VR, focusing on its potential for positive transformation and brushing past the fact that my experience there is heavily peppered with deplorable commentary aimed at my feminine voice and avatar, and that I was faced with a Russian-speaking Hitler and an army of nazis just yesterday at a virtual bar.
But I’m hanging onto my mission to explore how we can shape our experience to enable more connection, shared stories, and common language for an inclusive global community.
I’ve been perusing around VRChat reddit posts during some desperate attempts to debug, and have been coming across some interesting themes.
How to look for, and finding worlds is a common thread, with people describing environments they want to share with others. Here’s one attempt to formalize this process using search terms:
Another hugely prevalent situation is people building up the courage to voice themselves through the freedom of an anonymous community:
“Hi! I’m transgender (male-to-female) but am not yet presenting as female in public. I’ve practiced my girl voice in private, but never with others around to hear it. Recently my group of gaming buddies decided to try out this program, mostly to explore memes and other dumb stuff. I picked out a cute anime girl avatar and, after hanging around silently while my friends explored the server we joined, I muted myself in the discord call to talk only in-game. From there I used my girl voice to talk to people for the rest of the night. I am not a social person, so I didn’t talk much, but it was a nice thing to try. Most people didn’t comment on my voice at all, though I got one “oh shit it’s a real girl” and one “it’s a trap” (which doesn’t bother me too much) so I’m not really sure how well I passed, but it was fun to try. 🙂
This probably won’t be the last time I do this. I imagine others have used this game to express themselves in ways they can’t in real life? Feel free to discuss!”
and also, finding common language:
“I’m french and I understand english very well but when it comes to having an oral conversation, it’s like I know 4 words of english. VRChat helped me practising my oral english and i’m a bit better so far! I’m very glad it helped you and don’t worry about the “it’s a trap” thing it’s mostly a meme I’ve seen a lot of people say it to real girls just for fun.”
I see a breakdown of identity happening, at least on the surface layer, and on a deeper layer, a discovery of identity and search for community and acceptance. In the future, I don’t think we’ll cling onto such a strong sense of “this is who I am”, but rather, have a more fluid sense of our potential selves and our spaces. like this commercial about Las Vegas:
You don’t have to watch a movie to feel what it might be like to be the character, you can be the character if you desire. You don’t have to travel to the place, it can be brought into your space. I went to a talk this past week during which the VR/AR creator for the NYTimes brought up the complexities of bringing AR objects into an audience’s personal “safe” space as something to consider.