#566: VRChat Anecdotes + Dealing with Harassment & Tolling in Social VR

gunterGunter S. Thompson has been hosting VR meetups in VRChat for the past 3 years where he will give guided tours through the latest additions to the VRChat metaverse, and he also hosts a live talk show every Tuesday called “Gunter’s Universe.” I had a chance to catch up with Gunter at SVVR about two months after VRChat launched on Steam on February 1st where we talked about highlights from his social VR adventures, the challenges of dealing with harassment and trolling with VRChat after it’s public launch, and hanging out at the most popular bar in the metaverse, which is called “The Great Pug.”


Here’s Episode #42 of Gunters Universe featuring Duncan Trussell & Zach Leary

A talk about Intellectual Property Rights in that took place in “The Great Pug” in VRChat

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Music: Fatality & Summer Trip

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So continuing on the theme of social VR, today I have a chat with Gunter S. Thompson, who hosts a talk show within VRChat called Gunter's Universe. But he also often hosts the meetups within VRChat, which means that he's in charge of taking a group of people through a variety of different virtual worlds and to create this kind of group experience. And so he's been doing that a lot over the last three years. And so I have a chance to sit down with him and share some of his reflections and stories of both the early days of VRChat but also how it's been changing now that consumer VR has launched and they have to deal with a lot more people who are coming in and being trolls. So that's what we'll be covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Gunder happened at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference in San Jose, California on Friday, March 31st, 2017. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:01:12.428] Gunter S Thompson: Hello, I'm Gunter S. Thompson. I host a virtual reality talk show inside of VRChat. So I bring people into the social VR platform, VRChat, take them to the Gunter's Universe set, and we all sit down at the table, do a little interview, have a little bit of fun. The audience is around us, you know, 20, 30, 40 people, and it's a blast.

[00:01:33.542] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I know that VRChat just recently, within the last couple months or so, launched on Steam. So maybe you could talk a bit about that launch and what you've seen has changed in the VRChat community since then.

[00:01:45.206] Gunter S Thompson: Sure, sure. It's been a big change. We went from, you know, not as much traffic to there's always people in VRChat at all times of the hour, all kinds of time zones. You know, we're even seeing it at the wee hours of Eastern time. We see a lot of the Aussies, the Australian people start coming in and it's great. Because I'm up all night a lot of times, so I get to interact with those people. And then Asians come in and like VR Pill, he can speak Japanese and so he gets to connect with them and it's really cool to see that happening. But also just all the time there's people to go and chat with and they're making amazing avatars. So every time I go in, That's what's been a huge change. Every day I go in a new avatar. It's hard to remember who's who because they're switching into so many different avatars, but it's a feast for the eyes and there's something really special going on.

[00:02:34.512] Kent Bye: Yeah, I was talking to Chris Madsen, Deep Rifter, and one of the things he said was that he kind of thinks of the people that are in VRChat for all these number of years were kind of like the Merry Pranksters of the Acid Trips, where people were really trying to go in and see what they could do to really push the boundaries of their mind and their experience. But, you know, having all sorts of crazy cat avatars and just really wild experimentation is what I've seen both in the avatar creation, but also the world. So maybe, I'm just curious to hear your direct experience of some of what you've seen in terms of that experimentation.

[00:03:06.286] Gunter S Thompson: There's a lot of celebrations going on, there's a lot of connecting deeply. So I guess people are, they're really buying into social VR. Some people, they're doing these avatars, they're creating an identity and they're really buying into it. And so I'm seeing a lot of people spending a lot of time there. and becoming really good friends and a good relation. The best thing about VRChat for me has been the community that comes from it. And then we have fun. So since we're such good friends, we start having so much fun. We start going to the moon together or virtual tours on Sundays or meetups, taking people through endless, it seems like endless, you know, it's hundreds of different worlds that, you know, the users bring in. This isn't the VRChat team, but the content creators that are every week entertaining everyone and keeping VRChat super fresh. One of the greatest things that I like to do a lot in VRChat is actually go to the pub. I think I've actually started drinking a little bit more during the week, but nothing's, you know, just having a beer or two with... It makes it more immersive that way. Yeah, and we pick up the virtual glass, and along, you try to keep it with your real glass, and you're doing it with the person, you cheers, and you try your best to roleplay this inside of the Great Pug, is what it's named. and Owlboy is the owner of the establishment. Two months ago he basically wanted to create a pub and he modeled it after the Great Dane in Madison, Wisconsin, where he's from. So he actually took the blueprints and got access to that. The scale is great, like the placement of the tables, the bar, it's like all very accurate. But then, after that, he starts embellishing it and making it better. And so another user, Adam J., he says, I want to be your first dollar, and I want to be the first dollar on the wall. And so he did. He PayPaled him a dollar, and then, oh boy, the next week, boom, there's a dollar. And now there's photos on the wall of a lot of us playing around. But you never know who you're going to meet at the Great Pug. It's just a good, we role play it, but we just like keeping it real.

[00:04:58.084] Kent Bye: Yeah, the other thing I really noticed about VRChat is that there's like television stations in a lot of these rooms. And so you have this ambience of music, of playlists that are coming in as well, which I think actually adds a lot to creating this sense of like, oh, now I'm transported to like this 80s bar.

[00:05:13.642] Gunter S Thompson: Exactly. There's like this 80s nightclub that Cubed Paradox put together. That's another thing from going from one event to the next. So we were hanging out in the pub. It was actually St. Paddy's Day. And then afterwards, we went to this dance club. And, you know, the emotions changed. The scene's changing. You've got to talk louder or... Yeah, so it's interesting communicating and then seeing all these avatars, how they're interacting. We're dancing, of course, because we've got our motion controls in the VRChat's IK system. where it's tracking our hands, it works really well. The elbows, you know, sometimes the elbows pop out a little bit, but it's really good. The team has done a great job at, people can crouch, people can, you can lay down and go prone, you know. I'm up on top of a glass building looking down at people playing a Battle Discs, like a Tron Disc game, but my face is on the floor, but I'm looking into this whole other dimension that is a game going on. Wild stuff.

[00:06:07.724] Kent Bye: Yeah, the thing that I find really interesting is that I heard somebody say this and I think it's really true. They said is that your friendships and relationships are based upon the shared experiences that you have. And that if you think about relationships in that way, you can have these shared experiences in VR and start to develop these relationships that you're in this virtual embodiment, but yet those connections are just as real as any other relationship.

[00:06:32.540] Gunter S Thompson: Yeah, absolutely. I have so many memories and I talk about these memories because I've been hanging out in VRChat for three years or something. And so me and my friends can reminisce about the good old days or even just new people that I've met in the last couple months. We're still able to go, yeah, I remember when we climbed to the top of the mountain, you know, in the Hawaiian beach scene or something like that or we went to the rooftop and then we just jumped off the building for fun together. Those are exciting moments and so they really imprint on us. And then what's cool is when these people, myself, we meet each other in real life. And so here we are hanging out, getting, you know, face-to-face time, making new memories in real life, but we're just referencing all the times that we were in VR. Like, those get a lot more attention. And after we meet each other, we're like, all right, we'll see you back, you know, like tomorrow at the Metaverse. But what's great about being at home is you can just take your headset off and you're back home instead of having to travel across the country like me going from California back to South Florida.

[00:07:27.158] Kent Bye: Yeah, I had a chance to go to one of these meetups on Sunday, probably about a month or so ago. And you were the tour guide, taking us to all these different rooms. And one of the rooms you took us to was this archive, this museum, of all the old immersive environments. And they were just like 2D. pictures. It wasn't like they were 3D, you know, it'd be nice to eventually have like maybe an immersive sort of like experience of each of these. But they're basically like 2D screenshots of these different worlds and you had a lot of direct experiences of these different worlds. And so you kind of took this group on a tour like you were a docent in this virtual world talking about the history of VR. To me it was just such an amazing Moment to kind of hear your own experiences of all these worlds but having what I had my first kind of like tour experience of this guided tour of Content that I was actually really interested in learning about because I didn't have a chance to experience a lot of that

[00:08:20.902] Gunter S Thompson: Yeah, there's a rich history actually, and there's a lot of people that care about this, and they have come through VRChat. They may not have stuck around every single week to week like some of us do, but there's really been a lot of great people that come through VRChat. And Kurido is the person that made the VRChat Archive Room. beautiful, you know, museum, and just replace all the paintings with screenshots. We have, I don't know, thousands and thousands of screenshots that we've taken. All of us love these memories. We have panoramas in VRChat. We can take a whole panorama of this scene. But yeah, I love being able to give tours, and I'm really glad people like hearing the stories, right? It's really cool. I'm glad that, you know, people are getting to learn that there's a lot of stuff that you can do in social VR, and that you start feeling that. You can't get it in just one visit to a social VR place, but I think I was able to pack a lot of information in. And there were so many scenes, so many wild different things. And this is what we did. And this is Mr. Whiskers, the cat, when he was at the set of Gunter's Universe and some of his shenanigans. And it's just really cool. The creativity, again, just all keeps going back to this creativity and sharing it with our friends.

[00:09:25.077] Kent Bye: Yeah, one of the things that I would love to see is a recording of you doing that tour or being able to actually capture that. So if I wanted to have this sort of guided tour, I could have that. But I also really appreciated the live nature of it, the interactive component. So I feel like being able to ask questions and interact, I think that's part of what makes it so compelling as well. So I kind of see both sides where you might want to get a guided tour so you could really scale out. you giving these tours, but also, you know, perhaps, you know, at different moments, you pop in and ask questions interactively or something like that. So, yeah, I don't know if that's something that VRChat's thought about.

[00:09:58.885] Gunter S Thompson: Oh, I mean, this would be great. I dream of this. And it's certainly going to take resources and time. I don't know where it's on the priority level for VRChat. But yeah, we got these kind of ideas. Being able to record my talk shows and people being able to play them back later would be great, and not just see it on YouTube in a flat 2D, even though we have really cool, fancy, nice cameras that can display it well. So that's like asynchronous is what that kind of experience we're talking about, being able to record and people go back in and play it. That'd be awesome. But I love the live. I love the live so much. I've always did. Three years ago, I always liked these like tech TV from like the early 2000s. Leo Laporte was doing all this stuff live and he was doing it himself. He just streamed it out and he could do all the camera switching himself and he knew so many people in the community. And that's what I've decided I want to do. I've always listened to these things and was always so fascinated for those shows and live. And so that's all VRChat for me is basically it's a live experience, a living place. It's meeting people. I like being on the spot. Preparing for everything actually kind of stresses me out because I got to prepare for shows or I like just on the spot. Let's have a good time and let's do it live.

[00:11:12.464] Kent Bye: I'm just curious, over the last three years, if you have any memories that are particularly emotionally potent or memorable that come to mind when it comes to your experiences in VRChat?

[00:11:26.433] Gunter S Thompson: So, when we all get together to celebrate VRChat's birthday every mid-January, those are really emotional. We're, you know, reminiscing again, but we're all together and we get the feels. We talk, you know, about... It's actually, together, there's a huge group of reminiscing for that reason, because we're there to celebrate VRChat. And, you know, of course, people bring in cake, or their avatar is just a cake, or, you know, and so that's that. Now, more, like, You know, when people don't come back, you haven't seen them in a while. And there have been that people, like, you could tell me anything, man, we're friends, you know, I'm here to help. Oh, you were in the hospital, you know, oh man, you know, how are you doing? Oh, your mom, you know, you weren't here over the weekend, you know, they're talking about, oh, my mom was sick. and having to deal with that. And so we're always super responsive to that because we're all connected. We want to help each other and we do. And it's really, for me personally, having the meetups and having that in my life, my life has gotten happier and better because of those emotional experiences. And I'm sure there's some really deep ones I could come up with. You know, there's been three years of it. It's just, it's so cool and it's just emotional being around people. I don't know, just, you get all the emotions. With fun to, there has been sadness to confuse into, there's negativity. You know, it's a social environment so there's some people come in and they're not part of our well-bonded community. We want them to be and we you know, set a culture like that and a lot of people review and us and love that, they feel welcome, they report on that. So in another way, whenever you see somebody that doesn't care or just thinks it's a video game, they're just using it on the desktop screen and they just think it's like a halo or they're maybe younger or they just want to troll basically, that's very sad. I have to help make that go away because Not just because like so VR chat is more successful because of course you want your application to be positive But for me personally because I know these people or even if they are I just wouldn't want that to happen to me So I want to step in and and say sorry dude. You can't be talking to us like that. You can't be you know, behaving like that, just all kinds of things you could think of that rude people would do in VR. When we launched on Steam we had a lot of that come in, so it was like there was danger a little bit because these unique people coming in not caring and just being disruptive. So that has been difficult, but that's just a minority. Now we've met, you know, in the last two months since we've launched on Steam, you know, hundreds of people and they're all Some of these people are on desktop computers, just on screens, and now they've bought VR systems because they want to be now a part of VRChat. They see it, they love it already just by being able to not be in VR and be a part of our community, but now they go out and buy VR for this. That's way cool. Feels so good.

[00:14:18.860] Kent Bye: Yeah, I had an experience in VRChat where I was walking by what sounded like two men. One of the men was in a female avatar and one of the guys asks, can I touch your boob? And I was like, I walked by and I saw this moment where I was sort of like walking by and I hear this and it's like, okay, what do I say? And I ended up just walking by because it was like, I don't know how to intervene into this. I'm not sort of in this conversation, but But I feel like there's this opportunity for people that are in VRChat, when they hear something like that, locker room talk or whatever, some people crossing a boundary, it's almost like you have to be trained to be able to actually stand up and know what to say. It sounds like you've been on the front lines of doing that.

[00:15:01.410] Gunter S Thompson: Yeah, I wasn't trained for it, but I have the personality for it and the will for it. Yeah, at the end of my talk show or at the end of a meetup I would rally, like, this is our VRChat and we need to set the culture. It can't be just me or some moderators or people that work at VRChat always trying to correct and reprimand, you know, kick or ban or something like that. Because people that come in new, maybe they can modify their behavior. Maybe they're just playing around. So the people that have been there, that VRChat, that may have just started going into private areas, going, oh, and these new people come in, and they're doing these things that they may not like. So we'll just go off and be in our group that we've known a lot of for a while. But no, rallying them and going to the public places, where the people are at in VRChat, and setting sort of a standard that this is not just a video game. We just don't go slapping each other with our hands and just being rude to people. We treat them as other people. We are other people. We're embodied in it. It's more than just a game. And so now, I saw the tide turning. People were, you just kind of had to say, hey, we need help. And also, if you see a moderator, say thank you. Because some of the moderators, it was like 24-7 for the beginning. It felt like war in a way. It was a lot coming in. The word must have spread that it's a free application. Hey, we can go mess with some people in this social environment. Happened. That seemed to die down. at this point, but we learned a lot about our culture, just like the community there. Because of that dangerous element came in, we had to decide, what do we do? Oh, we weren't expecting all this. Oh, does mute and kick just work? Okay, we have those tools, but it gets very, very complicated in VR. Things like groping, things like... There's just so many different levels of what people think is okay, what they're sensitive to, and it's challenging because it's all across the world. We have people in tons of different countries, so maybe they're playing around, you know, and it seems like it's rude to somebody else. So now I'm learning all that stuff, like how to be sensitive to that, and it's just really, really complicated. and social VR applications really have to focus on that. We need to set the standard of it is a place that you want to be that feels safe or feels just not like just a boys club or just a violent video gamers that just like locker room talk or stuff. There's more going on than just that in these places and let's make sure we accommodate all of them because that's not a bad thing, it's just certain people want to be around different things, so let's make sure there's a system so that people are around the people they want to be, but trying not to give up the meeting strangers, and trying not to give up doing public stuff, not just, hey, there's options to have private rooms, or just Mutant Kick, but like, how are we gonna build in these systems, and I'm not sure, I know the team's working really hard on it, we have great ideas, and I hope VRChat can pave the way for a system of trust of Yeah, VRChat's the place. We know we're not going to get trolled all the time. It feels safe. We're going to be happy and not waste our time.

[00:18:05.637] Kent Bye: Yeah, one of the things that I've seen in the academic world in terms of medical training is that they'll do these training situations with nurses where they're in this team and they'll have different virtual avatars where a nurse is supposed to help protect the patient. And if the doctor is trying to do something that is going to put the patient's life in danger, let's say they need to have spare blood in the room and the blood's not there and the doctor's like, oh, whatever, we'll just go ahead and start. It's called stopping the line. We're like, no, we're not going to do that. And it's a training of actually standing up to someone who has more power and authority in this situation. But it's part of their obligation to do that. And so there's also training where you just watch these virtual avatars where you can just watch them model the behavior. So they'll stop the line and then you are in the same situation and they see this huge increase of people being able to do that. So I can imagine something like that in VRChat would be very helpful to have these virtual avatars and to put something in a situation where, okay, here's this training for how to cultivate this culture of, like, when you see this, this is how you actually intervene, and giving people the embodied experience of that. And it's something that feels like it's a translatable skill to actually sort of step up. And when you see something that's actually kind of a communal responsibility of the culture, and if you're participating in it, then if you see something and you want to maintain that culture, then there's almost like a yen currency of things that you're participating in. that you're kind of helping pay back to something you want to create for everybody to share.

[00:19:33.185] Gunter S Thompson: Exactly. That's really great. So you could have like instead of like the code of conduct on a website or in a EULA and stuff like have these avatars talking about and showing scenes of what's like cool behavior. What's uncool behavior, you know, you can make a lot of fun. I think keeping this kind of stuff fun is great, but then you got the people, yeah, that you're trying to teach them to report if you see something and that's got to be challenged because you can just ignore stuff and that's a skill when you are in social game worlds is you ignore it or even old text chat, of course, all social systems you learn to ignore, but we shouldn't be doing that. The reason it's not changing, everybody just ignores it because that's like default. Well it should be default that we want to keep our place clean, keep our clubhouse clean of behavior that's going to be toxic for the environment. That's not good for the people, that's what I care a lot about and ultimately it's not good for business. People are going to leave VRChat and not come back if they don't have that good time. And so the community is critical and training them. I need that training too. I want to learn how to step up more too and how to just being responsible. We have, I think, a responsibility as VRChat creating the social community, but I think the community has responsibility to share and speak up, help, teach, be tolerant as well. It's not just, yeah, and that's part of I guess all the training. That'd be interesting if we could get somebody to come in and help do like a seminar or something like on that kind of stuff.

[00:21:03.534] Kent Bye: I think that's where you get into the recording, like virtual avatars, you could start to record things and play it back. But, you know, one of the things that you mentioned earlier about the private rooms, That was one of the things I found really fascinating, is that you may have access to these rooms that you have access to, but they're not widely available. So when I go to the meetup, you're like, oh, here, let's put a portal, and you get everybody to go through. And so is that true, that you have access to rooms that may not be publicly available, and that you can kind of take tours on people? Or how do people get this private access to things? Is that something they just flip, and they're in the same world, but alone? Or are they actually kind of separated into a separate server?

[00:21:41.080] Gunter S Thompson: Yeah, so no separate servers, and rooms are instances, so a room can be multiple versions, can be open, like there was the Great Pug, there was a couple of them. Overflow, everybody can't fit in one room. So, the rooms get approved, we want to make sure they're not, like, causing crazy nausea or being explicit. Those are the ones that become on the public list, but for right now, and that's because we've had this long community for years, that they have content invested in the alpha, and we want being able to create and not be restricted, basically. Of course, you know, in Reason, like, you still can upload it, you can still go and check, see if your room, how it's working, and you can pull in your friends to say, hey, check it out. So those are private areas. But I don't know how that might change, I'm not sure exactly how that's gonna work right now. The people that are the room creators are the only ones that are gonna put the portal down for their room. So when you see that going down to private, it's like, somebody's just, hey, it's not on the public list, I've been working on it, do you wanna check? it out and go and then, you know, that's so much fun. Yeah, we get to see the iteration, right, help people. All these people are becoming developers that had never touched Unity before a couple months ago and it is insane how much they've learned. You know, we have our Slack group that runs in tandem, so we have all this text chat. Delve development channel is just in the avatar channel. It's just going on constantly. Everybody helps each other. We kind of point people there now because it's So much talk on this when you're in virtual reality. It's like at some point I want to talk about other things instead of just how to make avatars and do the development stuff But like be the social and talk about our lives and things like that, but it's really cool. It's interesting

[00:23:12.715] Kent Bye: Yeah, that was the other thing that I've noticed about, let's say, comparing VRChat to something like big screen VR, where big screen, you're in one place and you're not moving around. And I feel like when you're not moving around, you can actually have more in-depth conversations. It's a little bit like reducing your agency to Locomote. You actually can focus and have more emotional vulnerability in-depth in a conversation. And so I think it's interesting that one of the experiences that has gained a lot of traction is this pug. like bar where you're not actually moving around a lot. It's more kind of architected in a way, kind of like a bar to hang out. But yet, just like you would hang out in a bar in your local area, this is kind of like hanging out at the ultimate VR bar where you can just geek out about VR all the time.

[00:23:56.725] Gunter S Thompson: Yeah, it absolutely is and Al Boy who created the room he wanted to create a place that it's just social that a bar is Embodies being social that's where people go to talk and just tell stories and it's not about anything else But just meeting your friends or meeting up new strangers in there. So yeah He really put a lot of thought into what would be a good social environment that people would want to keep returning to. It's also like classic, right? It doesn't get old. It's just always a nice environment and he keeps building on that. He put upstairs like a little dining room area that has a stage and we have performers up there. But it's modeled to be very close to what you would experience in real life, so I think your mind can accept that really well. And you feel like you're at a real bar, so you have natural just conversations with people. And it's just this really unique thing where, yeah, we sit at the bar, so we are sitting, and yeah, I like to talk a lot when I'm just sitting there. Yeah, I definitely want to just talk to people that are like, sometimes they're just moving up, forward, backward, left, and right, because they're just fidgety, and maybe they're just on keyboard and mouse on the desktop, and it's like, hold on, like, I'm right here, and you're kind of moving backwards, forward, and it's kind of, this isn't what you would do in real life. The speed is too much. And so, ultimately, the room creators can design that experience. They could do the, when you go into the room, all you can do is sit, and provide that, just a conversation environment. basically kind of what Owlboy's done. And we would like to even make it a little, like, change the run speed so it actually slowed down to more walking speed. So some people want to create that environment, feel social, talking, but other people want to do a totally different thing, go out into the universe and exploding stars, and they're put into your eyeballs, and it's a crazy trip that you never thought you could ever experience, you know.

[00:25:45.115] Kent Bye: Awesome. And you've done quite a lot of social VR over the last three years, and I'm curious, like, what do you want to experience in VR now?

[00:25:52.791] Gunter S Thompson: I want to experience 1,000 people in the same event, live. That's what I want. And I want everybody after it to be mingling and able to... And then somehow, like, I like to encourage meeting, you know, like icebreakers and, you know, when you go to, like, company, you know, you just try to get out of your element, like for cheats maybe, and go hang out with people you maybe don't talk to as much or in different departments and just encouraging people, don't, you know, meet people, do this, like, don't just hang out with just the same group. And so it would be great to somehow, I don't know, maybe reward people for talking to strangers. I don't even know. I haven't thought about it really, but just that's what I want. I want to see a bunch of people having a great time all in the same area and then just these opportunities for unique relationships to get created.

[00:26:38.162] Kent Bye: Awesome. And finally, what do you think is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?

[00:26:47.494] Gunter S Thompson: VR is like the ultimate possibilities. Anything will be able to happen eventually when the tech will evolve and that's what people want. We want to extend ourselves into Stories and now we're creating experiences. We've gone beyond the story. We're living in the story. We want to Communicate like storage communicating, but I think I want to be able to not just tell you what I'm talking about and voice that I want to show you what's inside my mind so when I speak and when I'm doing maybe how I'm gesturing the environment actually changed that the mood might change to so I can visually kind of kind of get your mood get what you are meaning and not have to just do Sound waves that travel from our you know, like it's like telepathy basically getting more to be like telepathy closer Like the empathy stuff basically that's ties right into it a lot of you get that empathy out and I want to be able to experience what it's like to be somebody else I don't think there's like I don't want to fly. I don't want that superpower. I don't want I to Hadoukens or anything like that. I want to experience what it's like to be another person. I don't think in my life I'll get the full thing. I don't even know if the brain could handle anything like that, but that's my desire. And I think it might be a lot of people's. Who's it wouldn't? But I think VR is allowing that happen. I've never been able to be in somebody else's story and have that agency. So I think we're gonna be telepathic and traveling in each other's minds, I guess. I don't know. It sounds crazy, but I think the future is going to be crazy. VR is going to be a really wild ride, and we have no idea how complex it's going to go. And like the internet, you can't even put it in terms of how that was the beast that it is. And VR is just another layer with it. I don't know. I can't wait.

[00:28:30.872] Kent Bye: Yeah, just to follow up on that because I was just at the experiential technology conference talking to sub pack and there were some people that were actually Putting sub packs on and sharing each other's heartbeat. So I think there's this really interesting thing about sharing biometric data I mean, there's lots of privacy concerns that I have about that But just the fact that you could start to look at what's actually happening in your body and have that be reflected in the environment somehow I think that you could Start to use some environmental cues that you could start to use your embodied cognition where you can kind of start to subconsciously pick up on Different dimensions of what people are actually feeling so I think that's that's totally like conscious, you know being subconsciously you don't even realize now that this communications happening like I

[00:29:13.145] Gunter S Thompson: other visual nonverbal cues, but I don't even know what my subconscious and what's really happening in these conversations. I'm piloting my body in this stuff, but there's a lot of other things happening automatically, and I guess this is going to change our bodies, it's going to change our responses and enable more senses, it seems like.

[00:29:30.958] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think so. Awesome. Anything else left unsaid you'd like to say?

[00:29:34.901] Gunter S Thompson: Go to VRChat and come meet me and talk to me. I want to meet everybody that's in virtual reality, and let's have a good time and fun. Awesome. Well, thank you so much.

[00:29:43.269] Kent Bye: Thank you. So that was Gunter S. Thompson. He's the host of Gunter's Universe and VRChat. And he also often hosts the meetups within VRChat. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, I think that harassment and trolling is something that is a huge issue within social VR. And oftentimes, some of these experiences may be the first times that people ever have a social VR experience. And so there's a little bit of testing the boundaries of, you know, what is the threshold under which this feels real? And whenever you start to violate someone's personal space or start to interact with people and get some type of reaction, then it could be a thrill for people who are trying to use other people's emotions as part of a game. And I've had my own experience of being in VRChat and being in a situation where I saw that something that was transgressive behavior and I was forced to, at that moment, make a decision as to whether or not I was going to stand up and become the enforcer of the code of conduct. And, you know, I ended up not doing anything. And it just stuck with me that this is an issue, it's a problem, whenever there's kind of like this bystander effect that I directly experienced within social VR. This is a part of the dynamic is that, you know, when you go into a social VR experience and you're faced with something like that, then you have to make your own choice as to whether or not you're going to become the enforcer of the code of conduct. And I think that this is something where it's a huge opportunity for different types of experiences that explicitly give you training on how to become an ally for people or how to create a culture that is welcoming or how to stand up for the code of conduct. One of the things that Gunter is seeing within VRChat is some people are saying, you know what, I don't want to have to deal with that. I want to just hang out with the people that I know. I'm going to go off into a private area. And that's part of the spiral that I think that old space VR got in as well, is that there would be harassment within these public spaces such that people who already knew each other would go off into these private spaces, such that when new people would come in, then there would often be kind of like this ghost town type of vibe that they weren't able to really connect to other people. I think that the advantage that VRChat has is this novelty of having new worlds being created all the time by the participants. Anybody that can create a world within Unity can add the VRChat SDK and then submit it for a process of getting it approved and hosted within VRChat so that you can actually have people explore these different worlds that people are creating. And in terms of Gunter, it was also really interesting to hear that hosting these different talk shows is something that he's just wanted to do for a long, long time. And he's been doing that going all the way back to Riffmax Theater, where he would host the Virtually Incorrect Talk Show, which I had one of my first social VR experiences being a guest on his show back in 2014. And the other thing that I think is just really striking is just how the depth of friendships and connections that are created within these social VR experiences. There's people that have been able to have all sorts of really crazy adventures with each other by exploring all these new different worlds. If you haven't been to a meetup for VRChat, I'd highly recommend it, dropping by on like the Sunday where they get together and go through a number of different virtual worlds. And they're getting more and more sophisticated in terms of the interactivity and the stories and just the fidelity of the experiences that are out there. It's definitely one of the most robust and interesting social VR experiences that I've seen out there, just by the creativity that people are having, not only in the worlds that they're creating, but also the avatars that they've created. So that's all that I have for today. I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. I'm having a number of different events that are coming up here, including a live stream Q&A, a webinar, as well as a social VR gathering that I'm going to be having on September 5th. So you can check out more details on all that on my Patreon page by becoming a member. And yeah, your support is what helps me continue to do this podcast. So become a member today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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