The first VR Awards shows was produced by Academy of International Extended Reality (AIXR) in 2017, and after producing three annual events in London the producers were forced to produce their fourth show in 2020 virtually. After evaluating many of the different social VR platforms, AIXR decided to go with VRChat in collaboration with over 40 volunteer developers, world builders, and modelers from the community to reimagine the conceit of an awards show into an immersive world hopping adventure.
I thought the awards show featured some bold and ambitious experimentation that was worth unpacking with AIXR’s Chief Executive Daniel Colaianni and Event Planner Rachel Knight. They chose to optimize for the Quest, which meant that it was a solo adventure rather than a group of experience. They also wanted to have complete focus on each world’s puzzle, interaction, and keep the worlds lean enough to be able to run on the Quest 1. It was split up into four chapters with each worlds featuring 3-4 different 3D scenes that symbolically represented the overall category. Each of the nominees has a 2D object that was shown on a virtual TV screen, and then it would fade to black and then reveal the winner of the category with a higher resolution model from the actual experience.
Colaianni and Knight talk about the challenges of trying to recreate the same level of premiere experience, with meaningful networking opportunities, but also recreate the overall atmosphere of tension, suspense, and awe and wonder that can come from these types of shows. Their focus on accessibility and optimizing for the Quest meant that there was a lot of other compromises ranging from polygon counts to limitations of featuring embedded video files.
Overall, it was really refreshing to see this type of ambitious experimentation with trying to explore new aspects of the affordances of VR in this type of awards and marketing context. AIXR lead a community-driven effort here, and it was through this unique collaboration with V Chat and the VR Chat community that they were able to pull off such an impressive immersive fourth edition of the VR Awards show. You can see the full list of winners here.
The VR Awards will only be in VR Chat for a few more days, until midnight GMT on Sunday, November 22nd. But you can check out the show in VR Chat starting with the VR Awards Act 1.
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