Weeaboos and furries, like most human advancements, are slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to accepting emerging trends.
The metaverse is cool and groovy in 2022, which means that an infinite number of corporate entities are anxious to twist the digital environment into a hive mind for business meetings, bitcoin, the blockchain, and simply being a little rubbish. Capitalism will always be predictable.
The metaverse's future does not look promising, but some of us have already been living in it for quite some time. VRChat is a free-to-play application that has been available for years and has forever changed social interaction in games.
While the metaverse has been finding its feet, anime girls, intelligent tanks, and lanky aliens have been raving in virtual nightclubs, and it's already capable of much more.
Back in undergrad, I had just purchased an Oculus Rift and had seen a lot of viral films that made the application seem like a strange and fantastic place to immerse oneself.
It's simply insane – so much so that beginners will be eaten up by an experience replete with memes, custom servers, and a level of approachability that reflects the cultural position this game has cemented.
When you first sign in, it's evident that the developer has attempted to sanitize the site, pushing you to choose from a variety of pretty tame avatars trying to depict actual people alongside a selection of generic yet eccentric characters.
You select a standard model and enter a hub area, with portals going out to other servers and places, each with its bespoke instance and players now calling it home. As the name implies, this is a chat platform, yet it has gone beyond its moniker to become a fundamental, breathing ecology.
My first journey into VRChat was motivated by curiosity. I quickly lost several evenings to searching for new skins and spending hours on servers that felt curiously poignantly similar to real life. I recall entering a virtual nightclub, spawning in a corridor where the music was muffled and distant, slowly bursting into my eardrums as I moved closer to the dancefloor.
On the left, players were speaking by a bar, while on the right, a hot tub with a few others existed atop a spiraling staircase platform. There was a huge room in front of me for busting a move and recommending songs to the DJ, who was playing a combination of their music and accepting the shifting mood of the server.
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Most individuals, however, will explore populated VRChat settings and experiment safely. There are several ways to establish friends in VRChat, one of them is role-playing as your character (usually, people pick a hot anime babe, but you can be a giraffe or a cup with eyeballs or anything you want).
Roleplaying can be as subtle as starting to nuzzle other players if your avatar is a cuddly critter or as big and dramatic as the Loli Police Department, a group of VRChat users who dress up as little girl cops and even pretend to arrest individuals.
If you've never excelled in high school theatre class, you can meet other VRChat players through Discord-organized events or try to put yourself out without the weight of your body.
People will willingly dance with strangers at an underground VRChat event or appreciate the texture of a restaurant patron's gimp mask even though they would never be so bold in real life.
Small concerts like this have blossomed into actual artists hosting themed club nights every month, transforming them into events with their supernatural presence, with regular attendees checking in with friends to forget themselves.
As major corporations try to promote the metaverse as this revolutionary new idea, much of the mainstream has largely ignored it.
Meta is stripped of imagination and achingly corporate, transforming business meetings into a jumble of dead-eyed avatars staring at each other across a conference table. You may hold the same meeting in VRChat, but one of you is a vending machine, and the other is a twinky catboy with rainbow hair holding up the peace sign.
That's much cooler, and it's no surprise that VRChat has become a space for people who exist outside of conventional standards to find themselves and gain confidence.
Artists such as Porter Robinson and VTubers have championed VRChat's potential for expressing your desired identity online while communicating with your audience with unprecedented interactivity.
Because concerts and in-person events have become increasingly infrequent due to the pandemic, entering a virtual environment to experience the same adrenaline and enthusiasm is a perfect substitute.
It appears that the impact of such items has been quietly widespread, passing by major corporations that are either aware of its popularity and strive to emulate it or choose to avoid VRChat's evident influence since it is considered weird or unpleasant to the ordinary consumer.
Yes, it's strange, but that's the point. People are innately strange, and embracing that oddity in online places through our avatars and mannerisms is the way forward.