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Joe Hunting’s camera is still solidly trained on his subjects. They were lingering around a place called Bar Pyxis, flirting awkwardly and bumping into each other. Most wore their best outfits online, though a lone sailor stood in the doorway. Many of their bodies were frozen; an unconscious look on the ground. The Covid-19 The pandemic raged around them, but no one was wearing a mask. At least not a guard. This party is happening in VRChat, and everything — even Hunting’s camera — is happening in the rare atmosphere of the metaverse.
To be sure, this is not the opposite of Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams. There are meetings, but not the kind of work. Some spaces look like conference rooms, but without the “infinite office”. This is the metaverse gamer and other extremely online people have known for years. One of opportunities, one for people who just want to hang out and find a place to be themselves. What now seems to be ephemeral, like it could be devoured by Meta at any moment.
Capturing the metaverse, mind you, is not part of the Hunting director’s statement. His documentary, We met in virtual reality, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is not an article about the company’s takeover of the digital space. Instead, it’s about showcasing people in small progressive communities who’ve built social VR into what it is. There’s Jenny, an American Sign Language teacher working to create a space for the deaf and hard of hearing in VR. There are extraordinary people discussing the possibility of identity discovery in cyberspace. And there are two couples who, as the title suggests, met in VRChat. Their stories are similar, but not overlapping, and they provide a general picture of the metaverse — and I’m using that term in its broadest possible definition here — as it stands on. the brink of transition from the online bystander space to whatever comes next.
We met in virtual reality It’s also a glimpse into the evolving metaverse at a time when people need it most. Hunting, who shot the entire documentary inside VRChat (he uses VRCLens, a virtual camera made for this purpose), has been thinking about doing a documentary about cyberspace for a while, but it wasn’t until Covid-19 was successful that he was able to focus and do it. “I basically lived in VR during the pandemic,” Hunting said while presenting his doc at Sundance – which, ironically, is also being kept virtual because of Covid. “I’ve jotted down a few stories that I feel very passionate about telling about the ways in which we can connect online and express ourselves and find community in a time when our physical lives are limited. much more limited.”
At that time, Hunting’s goal was to show “what is in VR really like”. And that he does. There’s no need to spoil anything here, but his movie isn’t a huge party. People discuss deaths in their families, struggles with addiction and identity. If there’s ever been an argument that virtual reality is still reality, this is it. Hunting’s film makes a case where all dreamers envision a digital world that brings everyone together to be able to participate in something.