julie-heydeThe VR Unicorns use a rapid iteration, game jamming approach to VR development, and co-founder Julie Heyde does daily playtesting and quality assurance gathering feedback and guidance for the development team. Heyde has also been experiencing a number of different health issues that has driven her to use virtual reality as a form of pain management, but also as a way to hang out with her friends. Heyde is describes herself as a bit of a bully who likes to playfully mess her friends in VR, but she found that the other social VR experiences were lacking in their ability to do what could be described as “consensual trolling.” She wanted a social VR experience that allowed her to throw objects at other people and to have it stick to their bodies, change scales to intimidate people, and generally push the boundaries of high expressions of agency with embodied characters in VR.

As you could imagine, creating a consensual trolling environment for social VR could go horribly wrong, but Heyde was inspired by this idea of contrasting utopian and dystopian environments in VR. VR Unicorns is planning on juxtaposing this experience of a troll-fueled, dystopian, open world environment, but then change the rules and create a much more harmonious utopian experience that’s more collaborative than competitive.

The VR Unicorns showed a 3-week old prototype of #Utopia at GDC 2017, and it was still in the early phases of development and has likely vastly evolved over the past year. While the project is titled #Utopia, they were only showing the first phases of their initial dystopian environment. I had a chance to chat with Heyde about their #Utopia demo, this concept of consensual trolling, how she uses VR for pain management, escapism vs flow states, and how she’s personally been in an immersive dialogue with her developers through their surprising additions to #SelfieTennis, http://www.vrunicorns.com/archery/, and upcoming release of #SkiJump.

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