One of the utopian promises of the internet was that you could reinvent yourself online and be anyone you wanted. In VRChat, Lasch is an anime girl with blushing cheeks and long white hair. Born in Germany, Lasch was classified as male at birth, but realized from a young age that they had nothing to do with that label. Today they identify as non-binary and use them and the pronouns.
Not feeling supported by their conservative family, they began experimenting with their gender expression in virtual reality, which helped them build the confidence to express themselves differently in real life. “During difficult times, I reinvented myself in this game,” they said, “and it helped me find my true self.”
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to VRChat becoming more of a mainstream clubbing space is the limitations of VR hardware. The best headsets are still expensive, and many find them bulky and report headaches or nausea. But with continued heavy investment in virtual reality from Meta and Sony, and with Apple working on a headset, the technology should continue to improve and become more accessible.
Because VR technology is relatively new, the long-term effects of spending a long time in virtual reality have not been explored much. “I’ve spent so much time in VRChat, almost 4,000 hours,” said Lasch, “I have dreams that are in VR. Sometimes I spend 12 hours in VR and when I come out I still see the little mute mic icon in my vision.”
Another obstacle is the fear that virtual reality will replace real reality. But many of its users said VRChat complemented real life rather than replaced it.
This is certainly true of Lincoln Donelan, who throws parties called Loner both virtually and in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. I found him one night in the virtual club’s dingy bathroom chatting with a giant fox, some skater girls, and a guy in a tuxedo smoking a cigarette.