Games are meant to be played with others, and with technology new horizons have been opened. Now one can talk to friends and play with players around the world on the internet, but you’re still limited though to the amount of interaction by the game’s capabilities. This summer I was allowed to play VRChat (Virtual Reality Chat) on my cousin’s Oculus Rift. If you’re not familiar with VRChat, it’s a platform that allows players to play games, dance at clubs, relax in apartments, and be in other player-created areas. This game has a high social interaction capability with other players. Everything in the game is mostly designed by players with the skill and imagination to create whatever they want. The community formed within this platform is interesting. You will find great beauty with creations within, but with those who explore it, I find myself questioning the morality of the game.
VRChat allows anyone to become what they imagine themselves to be. Moreover, you could become a celebrity, a video game character that you like, or whatever else you can imagine. One of the most amazing experiences I had was seeing a man impersonating a video game character BT-7274 (a mecha) from TitanFall 2. However, the large majority of the player base I found had individuals playing as furry avatars, explicitly lewd women avatars, and characters from memes. The main issue with the female avatars is the majority of the people choosing these avatars are men. Some of these avatars can even undress. It felt disgusting to see men be so perverse with these characters. While the avatars chosen are all fictional, these are still individuals choosing to engage in toxic behavior by exploiting the female body for their desire. I could only wonder what they would do in real life if they had this choice?
My cousin says VRChat reminds him of the early days of the internet. Everyone is trying to figure out what to do with it and testing its capabilities. One of the most impressive things you can do is explore the creations of your fellow players. The only limits to your creations within VRChat are your skill, the amount of time you have, and whether your computer can handle it. I have seen the work of extremely talented 3D modelers and designers and it’s just astonishing. There are beautiful and virtuous ways this technology can be used, but it can equally be toxic and destructive. Individuals could live in a tiny and dull apartment and all they need to do is put a headset on and they have a mansion. The technology has the possibility of replacing construction work with 3D design as it is significantly cheaper and more profitable. The risk is that corporations are using this to try to replace nature by building a world where one would not ever need to leave their room.
Seeing these worlds and meeting people is an interesting experience. I “swam” with sea turtles, “rode” roller coasters, and spent many nights “walking” down a beach online. I’ve made a friend that lives across the world, and I’m grateful for the opportunity and hope to keep this friendship as long as I can. The only issue is these wholesome experiences are in the minority. There are a lot of clubs, raves, and hangout areas that are filled with the most toxic parts of the internet: racism, sexism, homophobia, and everything else (jokingly or not) thrive. Everything is sexualized, and if you are not careful you may run into the avatars (with owners as young as 10 years old!) performing sexual acts on each other. This world is filled with unmonitored toxicity that will only thrive and grow.
My experience in VRChat feels like I’m walking inside a social media platform. Due to the great capability of sexualizing individuals with characters and actions, it is corrupting and damaging the minds of players. In certain worlds, I’ve listened to the conversations of individuals using the game at a platform to question their sexuality and gender. I also had the opportunity to meet a transgender female, playing a female avatar who is dating another woman online. (Incidentally, the transgender female sounded like a man and if they didn’t correct me I would have never knew they were transgender.) It seemed clear that the game was influencing player’s vies on gender and sexuality.
My astonishing experiences made me question how ethical and safe these games are. For example, I have created a good friendship with my new friend, but at the start, I couldn’t trust them. Due to the online societal culture of scamming, I knew I was talking to a real person, but I have no idea if they are lying to me. I could only hope that my friend was being truthful. What if they weren’t? Then they’re willing to manipulate others to think of them differently–good or not. It’s terrifying to think how individuals could exploit this system for self-gain.
This technology currently only exists in a commercial sense. This virtual reality will not thrive without further corporate investment. This market is only for the few willing to spend a lot of money on a system, and disproportionately attracts degenerate and lost people. The companies investing in this are using technology to replace nature. VRChat allows the ability for people to escape the reality they live in. The player base is filled with individuals escaping the horrors and struggles they need to face. It’s like another drug that imitates the feeling of pure joy. Once individuals leave they want to get back on as soon as possible to escape the world they live in.
It’s terrifying that many of these people will not see what is wrong with virtual reality. If you have found yourself desperate enough and in an extremely dark place, this technology allows anyone to travel anywhere they want to and be who they want to be. It’s replacing the reality that everyone lives in. As I explored, I just held an empty feeling. There was a lack of warmth, smell, and touch. Even the friend I made filled me with an overwhelming feeling of anger as I knew I would never be able to spend any time with them in the real world. VRChat is filled with real people, but there is an overwhelming feeling of absence as everything is fake. I can only imagine that the future of this technology will only try to replace reality more and slowly add more senses until nature is completely replaced.