‘We Met in Virtual Reality’ finds love in metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a cleaned up, hyperfinancial metaverse will likely never be as compelling or idiosyncratic as VRChat, the virtual reality community inhabited by anime fans , Furries, and a bunch of other subcultures since 2014. That’s what I take from We met in virtual reality, the first documentary filmed entirely in VRChat, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival today.

There’s no chance that Zuck’s metaverse allows people to wear trademarked avatars without paying huge sums, attend weird clubs to get (or give away) virtual spins, or allow users build whatever they want. VRChat, as described by , is basically a proto-metaverse where anything is possible. And for many, it has served as an important social hub during the pandemic, a place where they can forget about the world, relax with friends, and possibly find love.

But of course, that is the nature of practically every online community. We’re social animals – people have always been able to connect with each other via BBS, IRC, Usenet, and the plethora of forums and chat services that popularized the early internet. I spent most of the ’90s hanging out in anime and gaming chat rooms, places where young people connect today would probably find it odd. However, the people I met there helped me survive the worst periods of middle and high school. Those relationships and the internet itself have shaped who I am (for better or for worse).

We met in virtual reality proves that the online community’s restless, experimental sense is alive and well to this day, despite the relentless reinforcements from Big Tech. But now, instead of staring at tiny CRT screens, people are using VR headsets to explore fully realized environments. Hardcore VRChat users are also investing in powerful computing rigs as well as upgrades like finger and full body tracking. In the 90s, I was grateful to have 16MB of extra RAM so I could open multiple browser windows. Today, VRChat followers can communicate using American Sign Language or let anime avatars show off their belly dancing skills.

Hunting approaches its audience with the eyes of an anthropologist, without any appreciation for their sometimes ludicrous avatars (does all women in anime need must have handwriting, Dead or alive-Physical boob level?). We met in virtual reality It started out as a chill out hangout – we followed a group of friends as they had virtual drinks and continued the fun in rudimentary VR cars – but it quickly moved beyond the novelty. strange of the context. One credits their VRChat girlfriend for helping them “unmute” after two years of silence. One weird performer explains that being able to dance for everyone in VRChat has helped her grieve family tragedy and manage alcoholism.

We met in virtual reality

Joe Hunting

The film chronicles how an exotic dancer, a young woman living in the UK, forms a romantic relationship with another VRChat user in Miami. These types of cyber-relationships are nothing new, but the VR platform allows them to do more than link memes and trades via IM. They can exist in a space together, dating new environments every night. I won’t spoil where things end up for the couple, but I can say it won’t be nearly as effective outside of VR.

We met in virtual reality effectively convey why people are attracted to VRChat, especially during a pandemic. But it doesn’t quite capture the thrill of exploring these environments on your own. Watching people jump on a virtual roller coaster isn’t nearly as exciting as doing it, where your entire field of vision is covered and you can easily get dizzy. But I don’t blame Hunting too much for that; His job was to collapse the VR experience so that everyone could enjoy it on a 2D screen, and the movie was mostly successful in that regard. Movies are shot with a virtual camera that can mimic all the functions of a typical shooter, from focus point to aperture level. So even though it’s produced in an unfamiliar environment most people aren’t familiar with, it still feels like a traditional documentary.

Hunting has spent the past few years making VR documentaries, starting with a few short films, as well as . It’s clear from We met in virtual reality that he didn’t just join the community to tell a brief story. Instead, he sees humanity behind avatars and virtual connections. These people aren’t just exiting their lives with VR – their lives are getting richer thanks to it.

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