Week #3: Introduction to Social VR

This week, the two readings were "The metaverse has a groping problem already" and "Virtual Reality is Full of Assholes Who Sexually Harass Me. Here's Why I Keep Going Back". Both articles touch on the vulnerabilities and flaws of social virtual reality. The virtual reality spaces talked about in these articles are Altspace, and Horizon Worlds by Meta. In Altspace, the author of "Virtual Reality is Full of Assholes Who Sexually Harass Me. Here's Why I Keep Going Back" describes her first time in Altpsace and her uncomfortable experience. The harrassment was not just from an individual user, but from a group in the VR space. While there were immature users and creeps, the author also stated that there were a few that she was able to socialize well with. She found a British woman who suggested to avoid the creeps and block anyone that's annoying. While this may work for a while, I think the best solution will come from the companies creating stricter rules and enforcement of users that harass others.  The author goes on to say, that VR has potential to be something amazing, it just needs to "grow up". I agree with this, as I can see the potential in VR as well; it just needs a little bit of work. 

The second article, "The metaverse has a groping problem already" is about a beta tester in Horizon Worlds being groped. Horizon Worlds solution to this is having the ability to essentially isolate themselves from others. This feature, called "Safe Zone" in my opinion is not a good feature. For one it seems like a reactive attempt rather than a preemptive attempt. Rather than preventing that sense of fear from the start, the user would have to have felt threatened to use it. In the article, the author also mentions another example of a similar incident in a game called Quivr, where a gamer was groped as well. In this incident, the developers of the game created a gesture that would push away the offenders. I found that I agreed with a lot of what Jesse Fox, a professor at Ohio State University had to say. Fox stated the need for "deterrents" and how sexual harassment was never just a physical thing. I fully agree on the need for deterrents. I think the reason for most of these incidents is due to the fact that virtual reality while feeling very real, does not has the same consequences and repercussions at the real world. Companies and the legal system need to help regulate the virtual space to make it safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

An example of deterrents I thought of was in a MMORPG named Final Fantasy 14 (FF14). MMORPGs are often known for toxicity and elitism, especially ones with a hard core player base like FF14. However I remember when I first joined FF14, the first thing I noticed was the community. There were no signs of toxicity or elitism towards new players, rather, it was the opposite. Veteran players were welcoming and eager to help new players and were overall excited to be getting more players join their favorite game. I remember one night, after having played FF14 for a couple months now, asking a senior guild member how FF14 is able to maintain such a positive community. His response was that the developers made sure to make the game as friendly and inclusive as possible. FF14 has a very strict harassments violation rule, as well as other features added in that promote positive behavior. For example, the use of a third party damage meter is not forbidden, however the issue arises when a user harasses another user over their damage output. In this situation, the toxic user would be immediately banned. Of course being a game played by millions there will be some instances of toxicity, however I saw that these toxic users were immediately shut down by the rest of the nearby players. 

Brainstorming for Project #1 Virtual Enhancements

For Project #1, our task is to enhance the IDM Student Lounge and tell a narrative. While brainstorming there are a few themes I came up with. I know I want the overall aesthetic of the lounge to be a little dark and moody. With this, I thought of either creating a cyberpunk/steampunk lounge set in a dystopian world or a 70's noir detective film inspired lounge. The reason I decided on these is because I feel these are two very different themes from our current world. Therefore it would create a sense of escape from the current and allow the students to relax and forget about school work and stress (only for a while though haha).