#230: Gunter S. Thompson on Hosting Talk Shows within Virtual Reality

gunterGunter S. Thompson has been hosting talk shows in virtual reality since April of 2014, and been participating in many of the early social VR experiences ranging from Minecrift, VRChat, and Riftmax Theater. He talks about some of the unique social experiences that are happening with user generated content including hover bus tours and various social games, as well as some of the regular events ranging from karaoke, meet-ups, and talk shows like Gunter’s Universe. Gunter is the events manager for VR Chat, and he talks about some of his visions for the types of events he’s looking forward to having as well as reflecting on the connections and friendships that he’s been able to cultivate over the past year and a half through social VR. There are people from all over the world that are able to connect through these Social VR experiences, and Gunter’s experience that social VR experiences have been some of the most compelling ones that he’s had and he looks forward to exploring the metaverse with his virtual friends.


Here’s the episode of Gunter’s Universe where he interviews the creators of THE VOID

And here’s the episode of Virtually Incorrect that I participated in with Gunter back in July 2014

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Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast.

[00:00:12.055] Gunter S Thompson: My name's Gunter and I do a lot of VRChat. I'm the Events Manager for VRChat. VRChat's a social VR platform where you can join up and have social experiences with people all across the world. There's a bunch of experiences that are social in VRChat, such as our meetup on Sundays. Our meetup is, you know, just like it sounds. People from all over the United States, a bunch of people from Europe congregate and just get to know each other, do introductions, and then we go play around in VRChat, because there's all kinds of community content that's been created there, and play games, and hang out, and there's other events like karaoke night, and I also do a show, a talk show on every Tuesday night called Gunter's Universe, and it's a virtual talk show, and it's a blast.

[00:00:56.195] Kent Bye: Tell me a bit about your history of getting into VR and some of the other programs that you've done in social VR.

[00:01:01.619] Gunter S Thompson: Sure. For me, social VR started with Minecraft. It was kind of interesting to see Minecraft now is coming to the Rift and Oculus is getting into the social stuff. They're talking about the social SDK. So for me, Stella Attua made Minecraft a few years ago for the DK1. Minecraft is already a social experience, but there was a curated Minecraft world called Metacraft, and it was only Rift people were joining, and there was a Mumble server, and so we all talked on Mumble while we were exploring Minecraft. It was positional audio, and so we really stuck together and got to know each other. You know, these are other developers now doing different things, or I met Reverend Kyle there and other folks, and that was DK1 days. Fast forward, VRChat comes out, so I started working there. I really wanted to do more social The social part of all of this is what mattered the most to me. It's about being with people. And so when VRChat came out a year and a half ago, I just started doing meetups there. So that's over a year doing meetups. And also Riffmax Theater was a great place to do social VR. So that was another kind of venue for social VR. So I did a show there as well called Virtua Incorrect. Kent, you were on the show, one of the early shows, so that was really cool. Everybody thought I was an Asian guy in real life, but when they meet me, I'm quite the opposite. And the reason they thought I was an Asian guy is because that's what my avatar looked like in Riffmax. But a year later after that, still love VRChat and decided since I can build my own world in VRChat, I'm going to do that. And then later on, VRChat hired me as the events manager and just super stoked to be able to get my foot in the door of VR.

[00:02:36.300] Kent Bye: Yeah, I remember being on Virtually Incorrect and yeah, it was like, that was the longest that I've ever been in VR. It was like a two and a half hour show and I was in it straight and it did feel like I was just hanging out kind of in a talk show arrangement with you at the center and then four guests and two on each side and I just remember that whole experience as a memory, as if, you know, we were just sitting around talking and it's pretty wild to realize that actually it was, you know, a whole virtual creation but But yeah, there was all this disconnect between people that I hadn't met, people I had met, and I hadn't met you at first. And so yeah, I was surprised when I met you. I was like, oh, that's what you look like. I have no idea, because your avatar looks completely different. So what were some of your experiences that really stick out?

[00:03:21.750] Gunter S Thompson: Okay, so things that stick out are more recent stuff. Doing Gunter's Universe has been great. We did 25 episodes so far, so I can think of when I had the Void guys on, that was really cool to interview the Void and hear all about their project and future stuff and sort of get first-hand information, information that we hadn't heard about. other people that come on the show it's really wonderful when they stay after the show for the after party and we go to these other community created rooms like a sword art online room or you know just watch almost like a fashion show of everybody's custom avatars while they show off their tricks and stuff. One guy Mr. Q in VRChat can call down a hover bus that comes down and flies in front of us. We can all jump on this bus and he drives it around in VRChat because He made it in Unity and brought it into VRChat, so that's really cool. Riffmax is where karaoke started. We're doing karaoke in VRChat these days, but a year ago, about 40 or 50 of us are in Riffmax singing karaoke on a stage that has fireworks. We feel like rock stars. Those are big experiences. And then back in Minecraft days, We did this one event, it was 12 hours long, where we gathered all the resources, invited the community out. We all went on an adventure through the netherworld. And it's just really cool. We're all very good friends after these experiences. So it feels, all this to me ends up, I feel like it's really healthy, all these experiences. It's healthy that I'm being social. I work from home, I'm home a lot. So being able to log into these experiences and feel not like just chatting with people on Skype, but actually being present with them. is transformative and everybody should try this. Everybody that comes on the show that has never tried social VR, they're blown away. They can't believe how interesting it is, how you feel like you're there with people. People have personal space so they don't invade you or else it seems weird or, you know, somebody's being rude or too loud, the social group kind of deals with that. So it's very much like real life but to scale with other people and their avatars.

[00:05:18.617] Kent Bye: And for you, since you've been to a number of different social VR events, what do you think makes a good social VR experience?

[00:05:27.007] Gunter S Thompson: Good people, or... I'm a fan of, well, there's just so many different things, but one is to have a small area for people to congregate in. like Converge does a campfire and it works really well because when you're at like a campfire and it has the nature settings and those kinds of sounds outside, it's just natural fitting for people to, they get that. Human beings have been gathered around campfires for a long time so there's natural settings that they kind of promote. Talking so I just think talking get getting to know each other is really a big deal But then on the other side is to just explore worlds that are created by users that come out of their imagination There's this guy Tom that has a world in VR chat. That's it's just this psychedelic art piece that it's like almost a spiritual experience and so here we are a bunch of 10 to 20 of us running through it and just having our minds blown and And I guess it's because you're just experiencing things with other people. That's the coolest thing.

[00:06:23.383] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I guess the thing that I think of is that we meet in real life, we have meetups, and there's certain things that we do that kind of work in that meetup. But then if you look at virtual reality, there's things that you can do in VR that you can't do in real life. And so the thing I wonder is, what are the things that the VR medium is allowing you to do that you can't do in real life?

[00:06:44.681] Gunter S Thompson: One of them is that Mr. Q can spawn a bus from the air, a hover bus, and put us on that bus and take us away. But what these things do, what social VR does, is distance doesn't matter anymore. Distance goes away. We've got guys from Japan, Sweden, Germany, all across the United States. A guy from Argentina joined up, and it's random. So that's the best part. That's how it is the most interesting, is distance doesn't matter. It's just a trip, man. You can just have all these different worlds, like a Mario Kart world. We can go play Mario Kart together and just see what people have created. And since Unity 5 has gone free, our community has just gone nuts at creating things in Unity. And then with the VRChat SDK, You can just export it as a VRChat file and host it and now people can join up in your room. So it's the exploring of our creations and people that don't even know how to use Unity have like a way to, a reason to like learn because there's an actual group of people that they can go to now that all hang out in VRChat and they can learn, oh okay, you're testing my stuff, I'm learning this from you. They get on Skype, do screen shares, so the community is so warm and open.

[00:07:52.926] Kent Bye: Great. And so, what's coming up for you in terms of the types of events that you have coming up?

[00:07:59.070] Gunter S Thompson: Right. So, Gunter's Universe will continue to prevail. I met a lot of people here at Oculus Connect, so I'm going to be bringing them on the show. That's really exciting. And on Fridays, we're doing Karaoke Night. So, still trying to blow that up. We get like 15, 20, 25 people attending that. We want to build up a better stage with more effects going on. So, it's kind of enhancing the environments. And really just want to keep getting people out to the meetups, spreading the awareness about VRChat. I think if a lot of people check it out, they're really going to buy into it. It's that kind of thing you need to experience. And I really want to see other people to start do events there. So I manage the events there, but I'm looking for other people that want to do events there and support them and just use the platform to, you could do your own meetup for your own, you know, European meetup, for example, or anything you want to do.

[00:08:48.463] Kent Bye: And for people who haven't read Ready Player One, maybe you could describe what Gunter means to you.

[00:08:54.925] Gunter S Thompson: Okay, so I love Ready Player One, which is a book from Ernest Cline about the future. It's sort of dystopian, but they have a metaverse, or it's called the Oasis there, which is your cyberspace where everybody logs into through all kinds of great VR hardware. Gunter is more of a type of person. There's many Gunters and they're basically these egg hunters. They're looking for these Easter eggs throughout this Matrix Oasis system. So I wanted to be a handle. I wanted to have an avatar name and kind of stick with that. So I thought Gunter, it sounds like a name. It is a name in our world. I took it from that, but also I'm a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson. So I kind of mixed Gunter with Hunter and made myself a full name, Gunter S. Thompson. And it's just me playing around. I get to express myself with this, the art that I like out there. And it kind of caught on and people sometimes think that's my real name. And so it's funny at these events and in real life, I'm just Gunter and it's just fun. I like it.

[00:09:55.357] Kent Bye: So what type of experiences in VR do you want to have?

[00:09:58.560] Gunter S Thompson: I want to see social VR and like psychology, therapy sorts of environment. I want to see how people can get helped by having some kind of certified therapist come into VRChat and there be some kind of event where people can get that kind of help. and I would like to participate and see if I could benefit from something like that. I always want games and stuff, an MMO or something that we could all log into and play would be cool. Minecraft's cool. But yeah, I'm really interested in non-gaming though a lot. That's where I think it's going to change the world. So anything that's really different than video games or something that never would have thought of in VR. I mean, I'm looking, seeking out stuff like that.

[00:10:40.817] Kent Bye: And finally, what do you see as the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?

[00:10:47.461] Gunter S Thompson: A lot of empathy, a lot of, like the internet's allowed us to just, it seems to explore the world where we can look up anything we want, but with VR I think we get to experience anything we want eventually. It'll all be recorded, we get to take pictures in 360 coming up, in 360 video, and you know, so I'll be able to experience my mom's birthday if I couldn't be there, but it'll feel like I'm there. I think it's just the whole social thing. I think it's going to be sort of a great way to get people to get reconnected, not just through text, but actually feeling like they're in the same space, yet they're all the way across the world. But VR, it's just going to be in everybody's life, like the internet is in everybody's life now. Just need to give it 10 years. And it's going to impact every single thing in our world, I believe.

[00:11:35.139] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thank you. Thank you. And thank you for listening! If you'd like to support the Voices of VR podcast, then please consider becoming a patron at patreon.com slash voicesofvr.

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