An Excellent Video Essay on Identity, Gender, and VRChat (or, Why Everybody in VRChat Seems to Be an Anime Girl)

One of the best decisions I have ever made as a blogger has nothing to do with this blog: setting up the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, which currently has over 500 members who discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the many companies building it—and who are often the source of great story leads for this blog!

And so it was that Madman, a member of my Discord community, tipped me off about this great, thoughtful one-hour YouTube video titled Identity, Gender, and VRChat (Why is everyone in VR an anime girl?), by a guy named Strasz. In a world of VRChat videos chockablock with livestreamed shenanigans, racist memes, and tomfoolery, Strasz presents a refreshing alternative: a one-hour, well-edited, thoughtful video essay on issues of identity and gender in VRChat, addressing a commonly-asked question: why is everybody you run into an anime girl?

It’s well worth setting aside an hour to watch this in full (I watched it last night before I went to bed):

The video is divided into five chapters; if you want to skip ahead, the part about anime girls is in the third chapter, but I would strongly recommend you watch the entire thing so you can see the excellent groundwork Strasz lays in creating an academic framework for his discussion, weaving in various research studies (which he footnotes both in the video itself and in the video description, something that gladdened this academic librarian’s heart!).

Now, coming from my 14 years of experiences in the virtual world of Second Life (where I could be, and often was, anybody and anything), I was already somewhat familiar with Strasz’ premise that social VR and virtual worlds give us an unparalleled opportunity to play with gender and identity, but I found I still learned quite a bit by watching this video, and I can recommend it highly! And I agree with his assertion that adding virtual reality to the mix greatly adds to the feeling of actually embodying your avatar representation in VRChat.

(If this topic intrigues you, you might also be interested in a 2017 blogpost I wrote about sex and gender issues in virtual worlds, and how some worlds impose artificial restraints upon non-binary users, forcing them into male or female roles.)

If you want more of this (and I certainly do!), then follow Strasz on Twitter or Twitch, check out the rest of his videos on YouTube, or join his Straszfilms Discord server. I look forward to future video essays!


Thanks to Madman for the heads up!

Social VR Research Alert: You Can Participate in a Clemson University Research Survey of LGBTQ+ Users of Social VR Platforms

Back in October of 2019, I wrote a blogpost about a research study being conducted by Clemson University on the use of social VR. Well, Clemson University’s Gaming and Mediated Experince (CU GAME) Lab, led by Dr. Guo Freeman in their School of Computing, is conducting a survey of LBGTQ+ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Queer, etc.) users of social VR platforms—including conducting interviews in AltspaceVR, Rec Room and VRChat, if you wish!

If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and you are interested in being interviewed for 60 to 90 minutes about your experiences in social VR, particularly with respect to self-presentation and social support, then you are invited to fill out this online form (more information about the research study can be found here). The form states:

We are a group of academic researchers at Clemson University who are conducting a research project about social VR. We are interested in interviewing individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, and understanding their experiences.

No personally identifiable data will be asked or collected, but we’ll ask general demographics questions (age, location, race, etc). You do not have to answer any questions that you do not feel comfortable answering.

If you have experienced any social VR platforms / applications / environments (AltspaceVR, Rec Room, VRChat, etc.) and are willing to be interviewed, please fill out the form … and we will contact you for more details about this research project.

Here is the link for a document with more information about the study.

Feel free to email us at dacena@clemson.edu if you have any questions.

Interviews are to be scheduled during the month February, and can be done via telephone call, Discord (text or voice chat), Zoom (voice or video chat), or even on the social VR platforms AltspaceVR, Rec Room, or VRChat!

If you are interested, here is a the website (including a list of current research publications) by the Clemson University GAME Lab.

Are you a member of the LGBTQ community and use one or more social VR platforms? Clemson University wants to interview you! (Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

A List of Upcoming Social VR Research Events and Conferences

Last year was a watershed year for social VR research! When I first started writing this blog three-and-a-half years ago, social VR conferences were a bit of rarity, but now they seem to be popping up all over. So I thought that today, as one of the bloggers who covers any and all aspects of social VR, I would do my best to pull together a sort of calendar of what events and conferences were coming up.

This list will lean strongly towards academic and corporate research events and conferences pertaining to social virtual reality, as opposed to arts, entertainment, and shopping events. If you feel that I have missed something important, please feel free to leave a comment and I will update this blogpost accordingly. Over time, I hope that this will become a comprehensive list of such events.

Educators in VR UniVirtual Experience: Spring 2021, in AltspaceVR and on other platforms

The Educators in VR group (website, Discord server, Facebook group, Twitter feed), which regularly holds events in AltspaceVR, is one of the very best places to learn more about ongoing research into applications of virtual reality in education!

Plans for the successor to the phenomenally successful Educators in VR 2020 International Summit are already underway (and conference organizer Lorelle VanFossen tells me that she already has “evil plans” for me as a volunteer! 😉 ). Although dates have not yet been announced, it will be pushed back from February to sometime this spring, and it will be called the UniVirtual Experience.

CHI 2021 Social VR Workshop: May 7th, 2021 in Mozilla Hubs

According to the website set up for this event:

This is the 2nd CHI Social VR workshop. It is intended for continuing interdisciplinary discussions regarding proxemics, social cues, and virtual environment designs, which were identified as three important aspects of Social VR communication in our CHI 2020 Social VR Workshop.

The deadline for submissions to this workshop is February21st, 2021.

7th International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN 2021): May 17th to June 10th, 2021 in VirBELA

Building on the highly successful iLRN 2020 conference, which attracted 3,600 attendees from around the world, iLRN 2021 will be spread out over a four-week period to avoid scheduling challenges, and to give attendees more opportunities to participate. Here is their call for papers and proposals (PDF document with deadlines, etc.).

As I said up top, I will be updating this blogpost over time as I learn of new events to add. Please leave a comment (or ping me via my blog’s Contact Me page) if you know of an event, workshop or conference to add to this list, thanks!

Call for Papers and Proposals: The 7th International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN 2021), Taking Place in VirBELA from May 17th to June 10th, 2021

I recently received the following email, containing details on the next iLRN conference, which will take place in the virtual world of VirBELA:


The 7th International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN 2021) will be an innovative and interactive virtual gathering for a strengthening global network of researchers and practitioners collaborating to develop the scientific, technical, and applied potential of immersive learning. It is the premier scholarly event focusing on advances in the use of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and other extended reality (XR) technologies to support learners across the full span of learning—from K-12 through higher education to work-based, informal, and lifelong learning contexts. 

Following the success of iLRN 2020, our first fully online and in-VR conference, this year’s conference will once again be based on the iLRN Virtual Campus, powered by VirBELA, but with a range of activities taking place on various other XR simulation, gaming, and other platforms. Scholars and professionals working from informal and formal education settings as well as those representing diverse industry sectors are invited to participate in the conference, where they may share their research findings, experiences, and insights; network and establish partnerships to envision and shape the future of XR and immersive technologies for learning; and contribute to the emerging scholarly knowledge base on how these technologies can be used to create experiences that educate, engage, and excite learners.

Note: The 2020 iLRN conference drew over 3,600 attendees from across the globe, making the scheduling of sessions a challenge. In 2021, conference activities will be spread over a four-week period so as to give attendees more opportunities to participate at times that are conducive to their local time zones.

Papers and proposals may be submitted to one of 10 program tracks, the first nine of which correspond to the iLRN Houses of application, and the tenth of which is intended for papers making knowledge contributions to the learning sciences, computer science, and/or game studies that are not linked to any particular application area:

  1. Assessment and Evaluation (A&E)
  2. Early Childhood Development & Learning (ECDL)
  3. Galleries, Libraries, Archives, & Museums (GLAM)
  4. Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, & Social Justice (IDEAS)
  5. K-12 STEM Education
  6. Language, Culture, & Heritage (LCH)
  7. Medical & Healthcare Education (MHE)
  8. Nature & Environmental Sciences (NES)
  9. Workforce Development & Industry Training (WDIT)
  10. Basic Research and Theory in Immersive Learning (not linked to any particular application area)

For further information, please refer to the digital flyer or the iLRN website.

Inquiries regarding the iLRN 2021 conference should be directed to the Conference Secretariat at conference@immersivelrn.org. General inquiries about iLRN may be sent to info@immersivelrn.org

The iLRN 2020 conference was amazing, and I hope to see you at iLRN 2021!