"My first virtual reality groping on .Mic" is a woman's recounting of a sexual assault she just experienced in VR -- which ironically, I first read because writer Julian Dibbell shared it on Facebook. Ironic, because the author writes that "[e]ventually we're going to need rules to tame the wild, wild west of VR multiplayer"... and Julian wrote about virtual sexual assault in a milestone story over 20 years ago:
These particulars, as I said, are unambiguous. But they are far from simple, for the simple reason that every set of facts in virtual reality (or VR, as the locals abbreviate it) is shadowed by a second, complicating set: the “real-life” facts. And while a certain tension invariably buzzes in the gap between the hard, prosaic RL facts and their more fluid, dreamy VR counterparts, the dissonance in the Bungle case is striking... Which is all just to say that, to the extent that Mr. Bungle’s assault happened in real life at all, it happened as a sort of Punch-and-Judy show, in which the puppets and the scenery were made of nothing more substantial than digital code and snippets of creative writing.
Actually, it's doubly ironic, because Julian himself got the .Mic story from Raph Koster, who's been building virtual worlds for over 20 years, and keeps asking VR developers now to learn from that history:
"VR is just a rendering tool," Raph told me. "It's a window through which we see a virtual space. But virtual spaces, and especially virtual places, and especially the inhabitants and their behaviors, are OLD and well-studied and if you don't go look at that history, you're going to replicate some mistakes on a very large scale."
... But even more than learning from their own industry history, the problem probably won't significantly change until virtual world companies, which are overwhelmingly staffed by straight men, deal with their own conscious and unconscious biases. And make an active effort to create experiences designed and made safe and enjoyable for everyone -- not just themselves.
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