Well, my January 2nd blogpost Virtual Reality Vs. Real Reality seems to have struck a chord (or maybe it was just the compelling image I used). Less than 48 hours later, it is my most popular blogpost on the Sansar Newsblog, ever. That’s amazing.
I did cross-post this particular blogpost to various social media. In one case, I got back a comment that broke my heart. I’m not going to say where I found it, to help preserve the anonymity of the poster, but he/she said:
This article hits home for me. I have been living inside Second Life for the better part of 11 years. I have no friends in the physical world. No social life to speak of at all other than through the Firestorm viewer. I truly do live in a virtual world. That is the only place I feel I matter. Everywhere else I just take up space.
I just wanted to say, as someone who was addicted to Second Life for several years before I successfully pulled myself out of it, reconnected with people in the real world, and got a bit more balance back into my life, that you can reach out, you can get help. Don’t give up.
I decided to share my experience because I thought it would help other people realize that they are not alone. None of us really are. We are all part of an intricate, messy, crazy, interconnected world, both online and offline. What we say, what we do, creates ripples, affects other people.
We all go through tough times.You can feel better.It’s OK to ask for help.
First, VRChat is getting publicity, all right (this particular NSFW YouTube video has racked up 269,042 views since it was posted on Jan. 1st), but I’m not so sure that it’s the kind of publicity that the company may want. The word I’m looking for here is “notoriety”. I cringe as I see crude, sexually-related comments and content in such close proximity to children’s characters like Winnie-The-Pooh and Piglet, and child-like-looking anime avatars.
Second, there is massive IP infringement going on with VRChat’s avatars. I’m quite sure that the lawyers over at Disney are taking notice (and if they’re not, they should be).
Third, VRChat seems to be overrun with children and teenagers who are borrowing Mommy and Daddy’s VR headset. The place is pandemonium, a zoo, a freakshow.
Also, I think that VRChat is probably starting to buckle under the sudden popularity onslaught. I tried to get into VRChat for their New Year’s Eve festivities and found myself in a nausea-inducing, stuttering, shaky VR experience where one of my hand controllers refused to work, even after multiple attempts (and it wasn’t my PC; it ran flawlessly in Sansar immediately after I gave up on VRChat, so it wasn’t the fault of my computer equipment). In fact, on one login attempt, my left hand was actually mapped to my right hand! I have no idea how that happened.
So, the lesson here is: be careful what you wish for. VRChat executives probably wanted to become the most popular social VR world, and for now, they might have that prize. But as they are going to learn, there are prices to pay for that sudden success. Linden Lab learned their lesson well when they had several scandals in the past, during their media heyday, that shone a somewhat unflattering light on the company flagship product, Second Life. They banned the “banks” and the casino gambling, implemented a strict ageplay ban, and set up more stringent restrictions on the ability to access adult content. But they had to scramble a bit to play catch-up, in the full and unrelenting glare of the media spotlight. As far as I am aware, none of the SL policies I linked to above was in place beforehand; they were all implemented after something happened.
And I suspect that much the same thing is going to happen with VRChat. I predict that there’s going to be one or more scandals that force the company to put proper policy and procedures in place. And they’re going to have to scramble.