I haven’t played a lot of games this year. Or I have played a lot. But just a few games. I used to think singleplayer games with a good story was my main jam. But considering how little time I’ve spent on them this year maybe that is just a preferable thought, rather than reality of me spending hundreds of hours in multiplayer games. I’ve always on some level considered multiplayer games inferior to singelplayer games. Just a brainless snack to pass time. Regardless how enjoyable it is it always falls into a repeating behavior where you just play to get better rather than to experience something new.
But I do enjoy the social aspect of it, playing games such as PUBG, Hunt: Showdown and Dayz has made me meet a lot of new friends, there is something nice with being able to come home after a day at work, too tired to actually meet friends, and instead just connect online and play a game together. I think that is why I generally prefer slower FPS games, with a lot time passing between action, so I get some time to talk with people about anything. But maybe I didn’t need any action at all. Maybe that was just an excuse to meet people.
Which is where Vrchat comes in. A game where you do nothing but talk. I’ve spent around 500 hours in it so far. For people who have not heard of it, I would describe it as VR version of Second life. It is game designed for people to chat with each other within a 3D space, where you can upload your own 3D worlds and avatars. The game is rather infamous on youtube and twitch for being a pit of memes and harassment. Which is true to some extent. The game is free for anyone to download, and to upload your own content with. So anything goes. Like everything with that freedom on the internet it can lead to some cynical behavior or just stuff in poor taste. But that is only a part of the surface of Vrchat.
A VR headset is not required to play Vrchat. But for me, playing without it the game loses much of its appeal. VR is what makes it stand apart from other similar online games. It also adds to the social aspect of the game in a way I have not experience yet in other games so far. Not even other VR games. With two motion controllers and a headset the game is able to add in some body language when you are talking to someone. It is not perfect, it often doesn’t look good at all, but it gives the 3D avatar so much more life rather than a idle animation, and a bit more of the person behind the avatar personality comes out. After playing a bunch of VR games I feel that Vrchat knows a strength in VR that other games might not realize. That VR makes exploring 3D worlds really fun even when there is not much gameplay to do so. Like if I would be given a large amount of money to design my own VR game it would probably be a mix of a open world and a visual novel where characters are the main focus of the game. Because after my hundreds of hours with 3D characters talking in front of me I’ve realized that that is really fun. Vrchat also happen to have a large quantity of 3D worlds to explore, which is thankful when you spent a lot of money to get a vr headset.
But Vrchat is what you make of it, and if you are just going to explore worlds alone never engaging in any conversation you are eventually going to get tired of it. Being a new player, and visiting a bunch of popular public servers can lead to a terrible first impression. Because the popular areas is often overcrowded with what I could only describe as “human spam”. People who has no interest in being social, just to scream stuff at each other because they saw a clip how wacky Vrchat is on youtube. Here Vrchat has a problem. It can be really hard to get into if you don’t know anyone to play with. Because Vrchat community is at first glance pretty damn weird. If you are tolerant enough to ignore people screaming some aggressive stuff at you, you will probably be at least somewhat weirded out by the avatars a lot of people use. Vrchats more serious players also tend to seclude themselves with likeminded people. It’s not uncommon to see that a popular world has a lot more people playing in private servers than public ones. So unless you have rich friends who all own a VR headset and want to join you in a weird game. You are going to have a problem finding people to play with. But give it enough time and you will likely stumble upon a group.
That is pretty much what happen to me. When I first started to play vrchat I was traveling around by myself amused by the all goofiness. Then when I explored the Cafe from Persona 5 I meet one german guy and guy from Israel with a slight Russian accent. (A spy maybe?) They were both using avatars from Neptunia which looked kinda funny for me. “Is it alright if I hang with you guys?” I asked. I don’t remember if they said yes. Maybe they didn’t respond at all. Maybe I didn’t actually ask the question, and just forced myself onto them. But it did end up with me joining their discord group, and all the suddenly I had a group I could regularly meet in Vrchat. The group turned out to be quite the mixed bunch of different nationalities and ages. The german guy also turned out to be able to speak fluent Japanese, so often we meet asians that I would otherwise wouldn’t be able to talk to. Thinking back on all the meetings I’ve had it’s hard to sum them up in just a short paragraph. But the moments I enjoy Vrchat the most are the moments when this crazy game filled with anime and memes gets serious. When people are having a serious conversation. Maybe one of them has some problems in real life that he or she is wants to share. Vrchat has become this platform for people to open up that might not normally do so. And with VRs more physical element I think it might be a better way to practice your social skills than other games. There is also something really relaxed in just listening to conversations about anything while exploring 3D worlds. There are a lot of potential for interesting meetings.
Like that time when I meet a deaf person who used his motions controls for simplistic sign language, and he invites me to a world that is for a community using sign language in vrchat. Which was super cool to see how all the suddenly deaf people can communicate online in a whole new way.
Another reason I’ve been so attached to Vrchat this year is that it has inspired me to learn Unity and Blender to produce content to the game. I used to draw a lot, like doing animations and comics. But after I started to work full time that has quietly stopped. I’ve always had mixed feelings about this. I wouldn’t blame it entirely on my work. I was already kinda tired of drawing, I was doing it for so long and very little came of it. I’m not the freelance artist that I wanted to be despite giving it years of my life. But there is something I find stimulating in drawing I have rediscovered in Unity, and to be able to share your creation instantly to a community makes it more satisfying. Although nothing I have made in Vrchat is entirely 100% by me. All the avatars I’ve added is rigged and modeled by someone else. All the worlds I’ve made are from someone else 3D assets. But I’ve learned a lot from the process, and is just enough work for me to be able to do it at my spare time. One of my biggest projects so far has been to port the entire town of Silent hill 2 to Vrchat. So you can explore it in VR and have music and small scary events happen around you while doing it. This world has been somewhat popular in the game, at the time of writing over 22 ooo people have visited it. Which has been fun to experiences.
So I guess that is why I have appreciated playing Vrchat for more than 500 hours. It highlights the strengths of VR. It lets people be social within a virtual world in a whole new way, and it gives me a small platform to create in.
So perhaps it’s not entirely brainless.
Thank you for reading this. If you wanna get in touch with me you can reach me at my email “firstname.lastname@example.org”, or of course, you can add me as a friend in Vrchat. I’m named “Theslinker”. A special thanks to Jussi Liimatainen for helping me edit this.