Figure 1, a Quake 3 Arena advertisement that depicts the average life of a hedonistic nerd. At least Quake 3 was a much better game than VRchat….
Finding friends on the internet in 2019 is an interesting experience to say the least. A few years ago, you didn’t need to do much to make friends. Online games had a very distinct “social” slant to them, and it wasn’t uncommon to make new friends playing games on Xbox Live or Steam. Nowadays, everyone has their microphone muted or retreated into their own parties/Discord servers. Making videos online or becoming a social media star causes people to run towards you but quite often many of them are people with a few screws loose looking for friends. Imagine the rockstar stereotype but with lonely nerds running towards the star instead of attractive women.
Chat groups also can be dodgy as well. Discord in particular has a bad reputation among parts of the web, with its underage or nutty userbase becoming satirized in videos across the web. 4chan and chat platforms marketed as alternatives to Discord (namely the XMPP family and Riot/Matrix) also have a new slang term to describe undesirable people from Discord: “discord trannies“. The term of course comes from the fact that so many LGBTBBQ++ centric Discord servers exist, along with Discord’s catty and easily offended userbase/admin team having that slant as well. There were also Discord servers where minors were encouraged to take HRT drugs, and this does happen outside Discord. Meanwhile XMPP and Riot/Matrix groups can vary widely. As “alternative” services tend to attract those too paranoid to trust mainstream services or those who were banned from them (see Mastodon or Gab, Voat or Raddle.me, etc.) they can devolve into circlejerky echo chambers, either with people on the far left deemed too radical for Twitter, or with anyone on the right.
Telegram groups can also be a very mixed bag and while you can run across furries of all sorts, they tend to be some of the biggest drama whores online as well. You can find yourself roped into drama all too easily and it’s even worse if you have to be a tard wrangler for a group. You’ll have to deal with the very unique brand of special known as the furry fandom, complete with “kick this guy he’s my ex he’s a bitch” and now political drama in the furry fandom. Speaking of that, that’s another big difference between a few years ago and today. A few years ago it was easy to find apolitical nerds online, but now thanks to the people I mentioned in the last paragraph now removing problematic people from groups has the tendency to make them freak out in a very unique and special manner, involving calling everyone a transphobe when called out for their bad behavior, threatening to speak to their manager reporting them to Discord, and trying to drag your reputation through the mud because you ejected them from their group. You’re literally denying them existence if you tell them to cool it with the politics. This video is a great demonstration of this behavior in action.
So of course when the internet around you is turning into complete shit, you’re going to stick with friend circles you know and trust, like how some people will keep buying the same brands over and over again that they trust. Then one day you get thrown under the bus by your friends, or you lose contact with your friends because they got jobs and ditched their online selves for brand new ones with their real name on Facebook. Anyone online knows that feel, thankfully when there are 7 billion people out there you’re going to find some new friends one day. It’s just harder online thanks to the issues I mentioned with communities (and after being screwed over IRL I tend to have a good sense of paranoia that’s sadly overridden by a desire for a rush), but when you’re desperate to get your shit together you’ll try anything.
Someone I ran into on Discord suggested to try playing VRchat, after all it’s free to play. Staring at VRchat from a distance, it reminds me a lot of a corporate sanitized version of Second Life. While Second Life is/was a wild west of porn and griefing and notorious for attracting the saddest bunch of neckbeards online, VRchat tries to be the sanitized bay area venture capitalist funded version of it. It’s the version of Second Life you’d see depicted in some anime from the 90s, where everything in this new virtual reality world is supposed to be sunshine and roses and nothing bad ever happens. Even the griefers are back to some degree though they try to ban them because just like any other late 2010s product, no fun is allowed at all.
There’s a ToS and while it has this fancy ass prohibited content section that says “no porn” and “no harassment”:
It also has the classic “we can remove anything we want at any time” clause, the clause that basically says that any hotpocket admin can ban you because they woke up in a bad mood one day. Already I know this is going to be a ride:
Knowing this was going to be quite a trip, I finished up what I had to get done outside the internet, and got ready to have fun. I loaded up some Front 242 to get myself in the mood and got ready to make an account. Chugging down another bottle of Gatorade, I got ready to expect the worst. Being online for 12 years (which still isn’t as long as some people) has hardened me for the worst. Is there going to be any cool people, or will there be generic NPCs? Let’s find out, then wish the late 2000s/early 2010s came back after guzzling down drinks.
Jacking In to VRchat, the experience
I finished what I had to do in the day, before messaging the guy on Discord who wanted to get me into it. So once I made an account (it’s like every other account these days, you have to if you want everything accessible) I was told the usual about blah blah online safety. Yes I know I’m an internet veteran, I have years of experience with this shit. From that, I knew exactly the kinds of people who used VRchat, the same crowd who would chimp out hard in Second Life acting as if it were real life or who would whine to the media about being virtually raped in GTA. I then had to make contact with my Discord friend, who showed me one world with avatars selectable. In this world was a bunch of selectable avatars, all based on copyrighted material and some that were likely rips from video games as well. I saved a Klonoa avatar and joined the one area my friend was in, at least it was easier to get ahold of VRchat than it is to get ahold of the mid 2000s era Second Life client. That’s when the reality of VRchat really set in and it took me a day to realize it.
In VRchat, there were plenty of nerds and furries who had money. They were jacked into VR and their body movements were translated into the world, compared to me who was merely using a computer build based on mostly secondhand parts and a keyboard/mouse. They had their fursona modeled in the game. I did the math and to get a model created of your fursona from scratch and rigged up in VRchat it would cost quite a bit of money, like around $200-400. I priced out a full HTC Vive setup and it would be around $300 on the used market, and $500 new. Once you add those costs up it can be around $600-800. Gee, no wonder broke neets online want Andrew Yang to be president or come up with guides on how to get money from Uncle Sam.
So once you put that into prospective, you start to realize something. If you’re spending that much money you’d better be getting something good out of this game or the setup. You’d better be able to get your dick sucked over the internet or something if you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars getting into a game, or you’d better be getting an investment that’ll last a while. The vive is naturally going to depreciate, and outside of gimmicky VR games hasn’t been used too much. It’s still a gimmick, just like smartwatches, just like 3d TVs, just like smart home speakers, and it’s still for rich techies only.
And what do people do on VRchat? Why, they use it as a substitute for real human interaction. Why go outside and have friends when you can sit in front of the computer screen pretending to be something you aren’t, simulating real experiences you could be having in real life? Oh look watch videos and movies with your friends, walk around and talk, and whatnot. It’s quite depressing to think about, really. It’s just like what one would experience on a source game with lispy voices and nerds using Garry’s Mod as a roleplay simulator. There’s a reason people like to joke about how “we live in a cyberpunk society without the sick aesthetics”, because the depressing aspects are there without the cool aesthetics of 90s technology, but instead the bland flat material design of the 2010s. Why go outside when you can sit back, order food from grubhub or eat Hot Pockets, and maybe smoke some weed as well. Or better, you can live life as a worker drone spending the time you’re not in your office/McJob isolated in your own room.
Sit in the basement. Sip another Monster. Eat another hot pocket. Pretend you actually have friends, that you’re that fantasy character you want to be. And that’s the truly depressing part about VRchat, it costs a ton of money to get into and the payoff isn’t going to blow your mind. All you get out of that is a bunch of nerds who couldn’t socialize in real life at their call center job or around “normies” socializing online, in a manner where voices overlap each other and everyone’s talking over each other like you’re listening to some Trent Reznor album.
On the other hand the idea behind VRchat would be a badass idea for a short film or music video filmed on a Hi8 camcorder (or rendered onto VHS at least) in the style of some early 90s low budget industrial music video. The theme would be about a loser pissing his life away via the internet with fake friendships, and either the ending would be him breaking out of it, dying in front of the computer, or maybe a bit of both where he sees his fate and escapes that lifestyle. Or better, a theme in a video game/a book where now that broke NEET millennials have thrown their lifestyle away in favor of sitting in front of a computer, bitching on Twitter, and eating processed food, they live out what they would have done in front of the computer as their body decomposes. Then the story would be about a bunch of teens/younger guys living in that society trying to turn back the clock and save the future. Now that would be badass or something.
The Reflection Part
So a few days after I typed all of that up, I realized. Groups online are total cancer, from edgelords who get offended easily to degenerates who happen to be cattle and get angry if you don’t go along with the corporate sponsored consumerism program. Plus you can’t be yourself in online groups either. I could try to be the same nomad I was circa 2012-4, where I’d go months without being in a Skype call but the internet really has changed for the worse. It’s far harder to be friends with people and talk to them than it used to be, autists will drag you down with them or indoctrinate you with the corporate approved thought process, and “normies” are too busy working/going to college. It’s pretty hard to just find friends when it feels like you’re going into a warzone in front of the computer.
In other words: