You might remember that a while back, I wrote a speculative blogpost about what would happen if one of the more popular social VR platforms were to break from the pack and allow adult/sexual content—only to discover (based on a user tip) that one of them (High Fidelity) already, very quietly, was.
Well, very shortly after writing and updating that particular blogpost, I was informed that a second popular social VR platform, VRChat, also has quietly allowed adult/NSFW content to be served from private worlds, something of which I was also unaware. (Please note that this is not a criticism of VRChat, or High Fidelity for that matter; my personal opinion is that adult content, when properly managed and carefully restricted to consenting users aged 18+, can indeed drive usage of, and business to, certain platforms. It’s one of the things that is currently contributing to Second Life’s longevity, for example.)
My anonymous source tells me:
As someone who plays a lot of VRChat, VRChat for sure allows adult content. They won’t tell you that though. Adult content must be kept to Invite Only or Invite+ worlds, it’s not allowed in public. But the adult worlds are out there.
I’ve seen some interesting art galleries. Also, I’ve seen some really interesting stuff since VRChat allows for custom shaders. A friend of mine made a deformation shader where the mesh would deform to your touch. You can guess what he used it for.
But yeah, VRChat totally allows that stuff, they just pretend it doesn’t exist, but they also don’t do anything about it even when they know it exists. I think it’s a brand thing. They don’t want to become the VR sex place.
Here is a screen capture of one of the rotating messages which appear in the VRChat client as your chosen world is loading:
Please note the curious and very specific wording, differentiating between not-safe-for-work content “in Public worlds (Public, Friends+)” and “streamed or shared from Private worlds (Invite, Invite+, Friends)”.
Invite – Very private. Owner can accept invite requests and send invites. Occupants get notifications that others want into the instance.
Invite+ – Somewhat private. Owner and any occupants can accept invite requests.
Here’s a link to a brief tutorial on Reddit on how to generate invitation links to private worlds in VRChat. So it’s possible to share a private invitation to a world with only those people you want to come in.
Now, I’m not really sure how to parse this strangely-worded ban on streaming and sharing adult content (isn’t that something that has to happen anyway, even if you’ve been invited to a private world?), but it seems to me that, as VRChat is about to gain a whole whack of new users with its impending launch on the Oculus Quest, that Facebook/Oculus is probably going to be taking a really, really hard look at this (if they haven’t already done so).
Also, I have (sadly, but perhaps not too surprisingly) not been invited to view any adult/sexual content in VRChat, so I cannot confirm what my anonymous sources have told me personally.
I’m already somewhat unpopular among a few VRChat users for even daring to bring up intellectual content and copyright issues on the platform before, and that’s probably yet another thing that may get a bit of a shake-up with the upcoming move to the Oculus Quest. (Not to beat a dead horse. But yeah, I am. And I am now going to let that matter rest in peace, before I sound like the grumpy old man that I am rapidly becoming…**Ryan takes another swig of Geritol, yells at the kids to get off his lawn**)
My understanding is that Facebook/Oculus is going to be much more stringent with its curation of content available to users of the Quest ecosystem, at least compared to the relatively open Early Access program for the Rift. What this actually means when the Oculus Quest officially launches and VRChat is made available as an app on the Quest is still somewhat open to speculation. (For that matter, the same applies to High Fidelity, although I have been unable to 100% confirm that it will launch on the Quest. No official announcement has yet been made.)
However, and before I get accused of being a VRChat basher by publicizing this hidden adult content, I will refer you to a quote I made when I was accused of bashing Sansar by criticizing its launch on Steam:
I want to stress that this is only one person’s opinion, not an official Sansar spokesperson’s point of view. I still remain a strong Sansar supporter, but I would be neglecting my duties as an independent social VR/virtual worlds blogger if I simply posted nothing but “good news” about Sansar, as some people want me to do.
And the exact same sentiment applies to VRChat as to Sansar. I like VRChat, I enjoy VRChat, and I have made some great friends and had some wonderful experiences there, but I am not simply going to be a cheerleader for the platform; I want to be able to report both the good and not-so-good sides of all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds I write about in this blog.
What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below, thanks!
UPDATE 5:49 p.m.: Well, this just gets even more confusing. I’ve received a link to the VRChat Community Guidelines, which clearly state:
– Live streaming, advertising or publicly sharing content that is sexually explicit in nature or simulates sex acts is not permitted. Doing so may result in moderation action being taken against your account up to (but not limited to) banning of the offending user account depending on the severity of the act in question.
– Pornography & nudity is not allowed.
So, you can technically visit and see adult content in private worlds if you were invited (as shown in the very careful wording of the screen capture above), but pornography and nudity are against the VRChat Community Guidelines, so if the company actually finds out what you’re doing, they can shut you down. Note that this stance differs markedly from that of High Fidelity, which shifts the onus of responsibility entirely onto those who host their own content on their own servers.