Childhood in VR Chat

Growing up with bizarre technology
August 19, 2021

USENET comparison

Jumped into a VR Chat with Kevin and Andrew. What a weird experience. I asked Andrew how he'd compared VR Chat to Internet History, and he said a USENET group. USENET, starting in 1979, was a series of bulletin boards that could be located by their name. I imagine it as a low-fidelity text chat room filled with a bunch of pseudonyms. I also imagine it got pretty weird. VR Chat is like that, but you're wearing a headset, and in a real-time environment.

Filled with Kids...

The first room we spawned into was called, "Big Kids Talent Show." The name should've been a giveaway that it was filled with kids. There was a hard-to-miss monkey avatar, who's special ability was to scream at the top of his lungs. We all know of internet trolls, and people starting flame wars on Twitter, but in VR chat, you actually get to lunatics run around and yell in public spaces.

Growing Up with Video Games

Imagine being a kid and growing up with this technology? You can say and do whatever you want, without consequences, permanently cloaked in digital Halloween costumes, in a pixel fantasy world. Yes, the Internet is guilty off this too, but in this case, you're in a live, 3D, social environment. I could imagine mannerisms from here spilling directly into the flesh-world. My guess is that kids who play this game develop a complete lack of filter.

When I grew up, the games we had used to be confined to TV-screens, and controlled with handheld plastic. I was addicted just to that. But now, in VR, the kids use their head, their neck, and their hands. They're immersed in an infinite game, with no other purpose than to hang out and get your friends to laugh. It's less of a game, and more of an unchaperoned underground digital Middle School, where kids can do whatever they want. The results could be liberating or terrifying - in either case, a strange generation is on its way (if true).

Super Mario was only 500 kb, and now kids grow up in virtual reality games, dressed up as high-polygon role-playing marsupials, smoking fake cigarettes.

Absurdity is Viral

VR Chat isn't just for kids. Comedians go crazy in there. Brian Redban (the guy who helped Joe Rogan start his podcast), frequently streams from within VR Chat. The whole thing is just a spectacle. It's great viral material for YouTube, and VR Chat live streams often break a million views.

Watch out for E-Sex

Apparently e-sex is a thing in there (we were told to "watch out" for it by a guy in a furry avatar). At one point we spawned into an LA mansion, occupied by 10 other people, but the first floor was empty - everyone must've been ... upstairs ... crowded in the ... uh oh - we cackled when we realized we were dressed as a banana and a hotdog - wrong place, wrong time, wrong avatars.

Proto Social Network

VR Chat is a surreal alternate reality. It's a proto-VR-social network (like USENET), where you can make your own worlds and avatars (if you know what your doing), and run into strangers in public. It's both archaic and ahead of it's time. It's a bit like the second incarnation of that game Second Life. It's not the "future of VR" though - that would be like saying Chatroulette is the entirety of the Internet.

VR Chat isn't the only social VR network. The future of VR isn't just some bizarro world with whacky avatars (I met someone whos avatar was as a Tennessee divorce agreement). There's a bunch of them, and generally, each once attracts a specific demographic.

  • VR Chat is for role-playing
  • Rec Room is for gaming
  • Altspace is like Meetup in VR
  • Neos is for digital artists.

VR Chat might be the most known network for it's simplicity and shock value. It's not a place you want to spend a lot of time in, but it's worth experiencing once. The videos below don't capture the weird and indescribable feeling you get after spending an hour in there.

Random Captures

Monkey Man can be heard screaming in the background


Smoking virtual cigarettes


Clunky user interfaces