Art galleries and virtual worlds are a natural fit. (Second Life has been home to well over a hundred art galleries over its fourteen-year history.) I wanted to highlight some pioneering work which has been done in this area in the new social VR space, VRChat. (Yes, you can use it for more than just being a general jackass! There’s culture, too.)
VRChat user GM3 (a.k.a. Godfrey Meyer III) has created and curated four separate collections of paintings, photography, digital artworks, animated installations, and virtual sculptures. To find his galleries, simply search for “gallery” in the pop-up user interface in VRChat. You will find:
VR Art Gallery: ASCEND Art Show
Art Gallery: LEVITATE
“Three” Art Gallery Show
Art Gallery: FOUNDATIONS Art
Here’s a three-minute video overview of his ASCEND gallery, created last June:
And one of FOUNDATIONS:
And one of LEVITATE:
He is currently at work putting together art for the fifth show in VRChat. He has recently published an open art call for NEON ECHELON, created in Google Tilt Brush:
Here are some pictures I took at each of the four galleries created and curated by Godfrey (and yes, there’s even virtual wine and cheese!):
I have a confession to make: I’ve never, ever tried any recreational drugs aside from caffeine and alcohol! (Well, okay, I’ve also smoked a tobacco cigarette once or twice in my gay bar days.) Not even one toke of pot or a hit of LSD. Yes, I’m a total and complete square!
But I can get a taste of what an LSD hit must feel like when I put on my Oculus Rift and go exploring in Club Transcendia in VRChat. (Just search for “Transcendia” under Worlds and you’ll find it easily.)
Club Transcendia is a collection of psychedelic experiences created by an avatar known simply as TheArchitect (here’s his Patreon page if you want to support his work). It’s a clubspace with a main lobby, which has a circle of teleporters to various trippy experiences you can explore. Click on each of the pictures below to see it in a larger size:
There are various games to play, and there’s even one area where you can change your avatar into a being of pure light!
Right now there are two weekly events being held out of Club Transcendia. The first is Club Transcendia Live, a live performance event held at the bar area of the club.
The second is Psychedelia Express, an adventurous event held at the landing area of the Club where we go on extended trips through the psychedelic metaverse. Each week I’ll be taking all courageous travelers along with me throughout a myriad of psychedelic worlds.
If you’re interested in events taking place in Club Transcendia, you can follow the #club-transcendia channel on the VRChat Events Discord server (which is much less crowded than the regular VRChat Discord server, and a great way to find out about events happening all over VRChat). There’s also a Discord server just for Club Transcendia, you can join it here.
The Official Church of Marriage is a public VRChat room created by Lucifer MStar, which I found while browsing through the Community Spotlight section of their Worlds menu.
It’s a large chapel with pews and stained glass windows, all set up for a big wedding with an ivy-covered canopy. Avatars are milling around, as if they were preparing for a wedding rehearsal. I decided not to bother them.
On each side, there are doors leading to small rooms where the bride and groom can get ready. Each room has a large queen-size bed (?!). Maybe so each of them can have that one last fling before the ceremony?
This is the only church I can ever remember that has a bar and reception area located in a separate room, right behind the altar! Tables and chairs are all set up and ready for the guests.
The Official Church of Marriage is your one-stop shop for that fabulous wedding you always wanted. However, I somehow doubt that the weddings conducted here are legal 😉 .
(I still need to work out a system for taking good pictures in VRChat. The built-in camera tool in the VRChat client only seems to take panoramic photos, and I am having a bit of trouble using SnagIt, my preferred screen capture tool, while VRChat is running in my VR headset.)
UPDATE 8:40 p.m.: Ask and ye shall receive! Someone on the VRChat Discord server told me the secret to taking snapshots within my VR headset:
Screenshots for Oculus is holding left menu (button with the 3 lines) and left trigger together. For Vive its the System Button and Right Trigger simultaneously.
Endgame is a long-running talk show set in the social VR application VRChat, where participants discuss the impact of technology on humanity (here’s a list of videos of their show on their YouTube page). The show runs Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time. It’s a great example of how VRChat, often derided for its overall levels of anarchy and jackassery, actually can provide safe spaces where people can have mature conversations, connect with each other in a meaningful way, and develop real psychological benefits.
This YouTube video is a compilation of stories demonstrating the profound psychological changes that can occur when people immerse themselves in social VR experiences. The compilation was created by Noah (a.k.a. Psych), one of the three regular hosts of Endgame, who is currently getting his Ph.D. in clinical psychology. It is highly recommended viewing!
VRChat is the closest metaverse we currently have to the OASIS described in Ready Player One. It’s intuitive, customizable, and allows for the kinds of crazy mashups of characters and environments from different fictional universes that let fantasies run wild. Compared to the alternatives, VRChat is simply way more fun.
The downside of this freedom plagues every virtual space: griefing, or it has come to be known, trolling. VRChat is rather anarchic, and it is still working on developing good tools for users to block those who just want to annoy or harass. According to Wagner James Au, author of The Making of Second Life and the social VR news site New Word Notes, Linden Lab (the developer of Second Life) is still, all these years later, dealing with trolls. But he explains that this openness has been a blessing and a curse.
It’s one reason why Second Life has maintained a pretty large active user base of long-term users, while it’s also failed to gain and keep many new ones… On the plus side, VRChat definitely has much of the same free-form anarchy that made Second Life so exciting 10-12 years ago—the feeling that you’d log in and were sure to encounter some crazy burst of mad user-generated creativity. Even much of SL’s early griefing was entertaining and inventive (if you weren’t a target).
One of the things that Cole notes is fundamental to VRChat’s sudden popularity is the fact that it is also accessible to non-VR (desktop) users. He also states that immersion is a key factor in uptake:
The avatars that populate VRChat allow for immersive elements such as eye tracking and lip syncing. This isn’t new technology, but players accustomed to virtual environments like Second Life or World of Warcraft are often surprised when they interact with characters who can blink and dance and move their lips with a range of motion. This makes for surprisingly lifelike, often humorous interactions.
It’s a good article, and I urge you to go over to their website and read it in full. It should also be required reading for staff at Linden Lab and High Fidelity and all the other companies that are now trying to break into the potentially lucrative social VR market.
I have decided that I’m not going to wait for Linden Lab to issue brand guidelines for Sansar. I am rebranding the Sansar Newsblog under my own name. (I’ve held the domain name for well over a decade, and this is the perfect place to finally use it!)
All of the old blogposts are still searchable and accessible, and almost all the Sansar-related blogposts have been tagged with the tag “Sansar” to make them easier to find. All the old URLs should still work as before.
Along with the new name comes a new focus. I will no longer be focusing near-exclusively on Sansar in this blog. Instead, I will be expanding my coverage to provide “News and Views on Social VR, Virtual Worlds, and the Metaverse”, as my new blog tagline now states. Platforms covered will include, but not be limited to:
Note that I do not plan to write much about Second Life and its many Opensim-based spin-offs; there are already over a thousand avid bloggers who do an excellent job of that! I plan to focus on the newer platforms, especially those that support virtual reality.
I will be closing the Facebook and Google+ groups I created for the Sansar Newsblog, and creating new groups for this rebranded blog.
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.