UPDATED! Drug Culture in Social VR and Virtual Worlds: Some Explorations on 4/20 of Its Expression and Representation in the Metaverse

Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

I have a confession to make: I have never smoked marijuana. (And no, I haven’t been tempted since my country, Canada, legalized cannabis three years ago.) When it comes to drugs, I am an utter square, a clueless noob, a babe in the woods. Instead of associating with the druggies in high school, I hung out with the kids you used to hang out in the library (which might explain why I became a librarian, come to think of it).

In fact (aside from my prescription medications (which I take for a list of ailments that only seems to grow longer the older I get), the only recreational drugs I have ever (ab)used are caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco (and the latter consisted of a mere handful of cigarettes smoked during my gay bar days, in a failed effort to look cool).

So I am probably the least likely person to write up a blogpost examining drug culture in social VR and virtual worlds. However, since I am (at least, by my own account) somewhat of an expert on social VR and virtual worlds, I thought it would be interesting to explore and examine those places in the metaverse which celebrate getting high. Why not?

So fasten your seatbelts, and let’s take off! 😉

Second Life

A natural starting point for our explorations is the venerable virtual world of Second Life, where there are no shortage of places featuring drugs (and which, no doubt, people have visited while high).

A quick search on “420” under Places in the Search menu pulled up Commune Utopia, a bohemian, hippie commune since 2011. There were only a few people hanging around, dancing to the music and just chilling out:

Commune Utopia in Second Life

A similar, laid-back vibe pervades the Free Spirit Farms hippie and bohemian community, The notecard you receive upon arrival states:

The idea behind Free Spirit Farms, is to surround ourselves with like minded people who consider themselves, or are free spirited, bohemian, modern day hippies.

Cool, man. However, it would appear that there were only a grand total of three avatars on the entire sim—hardly a Woodstock in the making!

All alone at the spawn point of Free Spirit Farms

One nice thing about Free Spirit Farms is that (if you join the Free Spirit Farms group for free), you can set this place to be your home location in Second Life, unpack boxes, etc.

A keyword search on “drugs” under Places threw up the usual inner-city crime roleplay sims, plus the aptly named Little Brown Mushroom, an absolutely deserted nightclub with a trippy 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s music list and a suitably druggy theme.

A Very Strange Tip Acid Experience Amusement Park was likewise deserted. If there were avatars celebrating 4/20 in Second Life, I completely failed to find them!

So I turned to what I considered my most likely spot to find drug culture in the metaverse:

VRChat

Once again doing keyword searches on “420” and “trip” under the Places menu brought up a few interesting worlds. “Drug” and “drugs” pulled up absolutely zero worlds (which led me to think that perhaps VRChat was censoring the terms). However, a search for “420” pulled up the promising-sounding “420 Forest”.

The 420 forest was nice enough, a winding path through a coniferous forest, lit by green fireflies, leading to a cozy central campfire, but like the places I investigated in SL, it too was absolutely and utterly deserted:

The 420 Forest World was deserted

I did find the Create a Trip world, one of many wonderful worlds created by TheArchitect. Create a Trip was certainly trippy in a kaleidoscopesque sort of way (but you’ll need to bring your own music, and your own drugs for that matter):

I was seriously striking out here, people. It occurred to me that perhaps, square that I am, I simply did not know the right people who could direct me to the right places? It also occurred to me that, on this high holiday of April 20th (see what I did there?), perhaps most aficionados of drug culture would be toking out in real life, instead of messing around in the metaverse?!??

Undaunted, I determined to persevere, and I moved on to… where? Where could I go next? I certainly wasn’t going to find any drug culture in Rec Room. AltspaceVR? Sansar? It would be next to impossible to find a 420 world in Sansar, even if one existed. So I decided to put my Valve Index headset back on my noggin, and headed into AltspaceVR. Perhaps the home of the BRCvr virtual Burning Man festival might provide some 420 content?

AltspaceVR

Success! SUCCESS!!! I finally encountered a group of 420 people in the BRCvr world, just in the final moments before they were shutting down for the day, and indeed shutting down the virtual playa in BRCvr completely, in order to build the next virtual Burning Man world for 2021! Here are a few snapshots I took using the in-world camera:

So, as you can see, there were indeed some people celebrating 420 in social VR!

What 420/drug culture worlds have you experienced in social VR and virtual worlds? I’m quite sure I missed more than a few worlds that were designed to feel like a trip, but as I said up top, I am not an expert. Anybody have any drug-themed metaverse locations for me to explore? Feel free to leave a comment below, thanks!

Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

UPDATE 9:07 p.m.: Well, this evening I discovered that WOMBO had uploaded a whole whack of new song clips, just to mark 4/20, so I plugged a selfie of my main male Second Life avatar, Heath Homewood, into the app, and, well…I got to see what Heath would look like, stoned! (More info on WOMBO here.)

I am way, waaay too easily amused, folks.

UPDATE April 21st, 2021: I have been informed that NeosVR does have some drug-related content:

Ahh, I see you didn’t find our drug simulators. Neos has various types of object which simulate intoxicants. There’s also a shisha setup and a vape inside Neos Essentials.

And then I had to Google “shisha” to find out what that referred to (seriously, I didn’t know; it’s another word for a hookah). Apparently, NeosVR also has a series of colourblind vapes, which I assume would simulate various forms of colour blindness. Interesting!

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