VRChat: A 21st-century chat room
Mass Communication is the hallmark of today’s society with mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter and instant messengers, but with the recent rise in popularity of virtual reality, a new mass communication tool has been created in the form of the free to play VR game, VRChat. While classed as a game VRChat is akin to an online chat room or IRC, although unlike them, VRChat allows for more than just communication between players, as those who play the game can use their in-game avatars to explore numerous in-game worlds and find new and interesting ways to interact with one another.
VR AND NON-VR USERS CAN HAVE FUN TOGETHER
While built as a Virtual reality experience, the developers also opened the game up to those who don’t own a VR headset. While non-VR users lose some minor tools such as moving fingers and crouching there is no major difference between VR and non-VR players. Having both types of users together allows for a larger community, which means more people can have fun together. Speaking of fun, if sitting around chatting all day in VRChat begins to bore you than why not find a world that offers some amusing activities, and so to that end I highly recommend the “amusement park” world, a world where you can enjoy all the fun of an amusement park, but from the comfort of your own home. In this world, you and your friends can not only look at the various rides but use them. Some of the rides include a teacup ride, a pendulum ride and a cliffhanger ride. For those who have a fear of heights it is a great way to jump on a high flying swinging pendulum with friends, but be warned VR and non-VR users have said that the movement feels almost real so I hope you don’t have a weak stomach.
CREATING AN AVATAR AND EXPLORING WORLDS
VRChat’s greatest strengths are undoubtedly its avatars and worlds. Avatars are an important aspect of VRChat as this is your first impression so it is important to choose wisely, although sometimes an odd avatar might prove to be better head turner than a safe plain looking avatar. In terms of avatar selection, the developers allow players to choose one of sixteen public avatars, which range from robots to a female unity mascot character. If you don’t find any of the public avatars appealing than you can search the game’s various worlds for a player made avatar, these avatars range from cute to the downright absurd. However, if you want to get creative why not make your own avatar. VRChat’s developers have made it possible for players to create and upload their own personal avatar by way of an SDK that works in conjunction with Unity engine. Personal avatars are very much the popular approach to avatar selection as it allows players to walk around as their favourite character or show off their creative skills by giving their avatars special animations, for example, a custom made tank avatar that can fire its various weapons.
Now that you have your avatar, let’s talk about the many worlds you can explore in VRChat. There is something for everyone when it comes to its worlds as the game offers a great mixer of player and developer created worlds. Some of the worlds created by players and developers include the “Open Mic Night” world where players can take to the stage and sing, read stories or tell jokes, and the “Void Club” a virtual nightclub where you can listen to some great music and dance the night away. What makes the worlds really stand out for me is that they can help those with social anxiety as they can experience potentially socially stressful situations from the comfort of their own home.
For those who are looking for some action within the virtual world, VRChat offers some combat focused worlds with the likes of “CTF” a multiplayer capture the flag style game, and “Battle discs” a disc-based battle arena that is unfortunately only playable with VR hand controllers.
MEME CULTURE, HARASSMENT, PROBLEMS AND THE FUTURE
As VRChat begins to grow and attract more people, the game opens itself up to some odd creations, case in point the meme based “Ugandan Knuckles” avatar, a twisted version of Knuckles, from the Sonic the Hedgehog. Those who don this avatar are known for shouting phrases such as “do you know the way” in mock African accent and swarming around unsuspected players in an attempt to draw out a reaction, if they fail to get a reaction they are known to resort to making clicking noises in an attempt to simply annoy their target.
Now, this draws me to my next point, which is harassment within VRChat. While the “Ugandan Knuckles” avatar is the most prevalent and well-known use of harassment there are other forms within VRChat. One major form of harassment involves female users getting swarmed by players asking them personal information such as where they are from, their number, their age etc. Thankfully, this form of harassment appears to be relatively low as the game’s developers appear to be rather strict when it comes to dealing with harassment.
With VRChat becoming more and more popular a potential problem in regards to the use of player made avatars could surface. I say this could become a problem as many player made avatars are based off characters the user does not own, while it can be argued that the avatars aren’t in commercial use it is a potential problem in the future. I mean it only takes one license holder to take umbrage with how their characters are depiction within VRChat.
So, what can we expect from VRChat in the future? Personally, I hope for more of the same, while the game does have problems such as player harassment the developers are doing a great job of stopping it from becoming a mess. I would also like to see the game expand across to the PlayStation 4 allowing those who own a PlayStation VR to experience this fascinating interactive game.
VRChat is a fascinating free-to-play game that offers VR and non-VR users a fascinating form of social interaction as users can form new friendships, show off their creative skills and well have fun. Unfortunately, VRChat does have a poor side with some players using the game’s freedoms to harass and demean other players.
If you are interested in trying out VRChat, you can download it for free from https://www.vrchat.net/. If you already spent time hanging out in VRChat and want to talk, my in-game name is Asheris.
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.