Mike Salmon is the producer of the VRChat Worlds Gallery at Venice Immersive, which means that the scouts out potential worlds, helps track down potential events to feature, and coordinates all of the physical and virtual docents who helping to actually run all of the various world hops. The VRChat world gallery had over 30 different worlds that were featured on a variety of different world hops throughout the day, but there were also five different VRChat worlds that were in competition. Two were immersive theatre pieces (Gumball Dreams & Typeman), and three were VRChat worlds including Kevin Mack’s Namuanki, Fins’ Treasure Heist, and MetaRick’s Uncanney Alley.
I talked to Salmon about his journey into VRChat and the underground music scene, his short-list curation strategy, and collaboration with curators Liz Rosenthal and Michel Reilhac. In my last interview with Liz & Michel, we spoke about the festival’s emphasis on trying to onboard other immersive storytellers onto VRChat in order to show the quality and extent of some of the worldbuilding that’s happening on the platform. Salmon likes to call VRChat the YouTube of VR in the sense that the publication of experiences are much more democratized in the sense that they don’t have to be curated by a big walled garden like Meta. This allows for a lot more experimentation as well as more avante-garde, DIY, punk aesthetics, but also experimenting with more bite-sized experiences that you wouldn’t necessarily want to download an entire application for.
There’s also a social dimension to VRChat, which means that the social dynamics are built-in and often times the environmental design provides a background context for connection. Salmon points to the Rat King as a world that is like a community-driven and open source DJ club with a video player that allows anyone to throw their own rave within a VRChat instance. Each year Venice highlights a number of different clubs and events, and this year they featured LLLL SILENT DAWN RELEASE PARTY by PK, OXYMORE by VRrOOm, SANCTUM by PammeMatth, and SODAWORLD by Michael Balkind. You can see how I categorized the different VRChat Worlds Gallery in my Venice Immersive sneak peak post after I had a chance to check out the worlds ahead of my trip to Venice.
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