Here’s a lesson from the metaverse: Avatar uniqueness and rarity is a thing.
Over the course of two weeks, I navigated the Oculus Quest 2 from Meta and mingled with people in different virtual locations. Let me be clear, there is nothing “natural” about putting on some goggles and entering this world. Connecting with people and visiting different spots is fun and exciting, but it’s also intense and often awkward.
Eight minutes in and I almost threw up after playing in a flying game called Half + Half. The crystal-clear images had my entire body feeling like I was flying when in fact I used my controller to draw my own playspace boundary (a.k.a. my living room.) Then once I removed the goggles I remembered: I’m alone, in my living room and in an Oculus virtual-reality game. Phew!
Going inside the metaverse as a woman was also deeply uncomfortable at times. You see, I grew up believing that the men around me like my father, my grandpa, my boyfriend, my boss, my male colleagues see me as equal. Truth is, not one male figure in my life has ever made me feel like my dreams are too big.
When it comes to advancing women in the workplace, one of the biggest challenges is men’s lack of understanding.
Men can’t see what the issue is. Privilege does that to you. They don’t see the advantages of working together with women.
The same is true when you enter the metaverse.
So what does socializing look like in VR?
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that my avatar caught the eye of another avatar at a virtual bar. Don’t forget that my name in the metaverse is Girl in the Verse. Yet, when the avatar came up to me he referred to me as “bro” up front, I was completely caught off guard. Not only that, the real me was nervous and trying to understand what he wanted.
Within moments, I was surprised by a deep voice in my ear. “Hey bro. How are you?” One of the avatars had spotted me and wanted to play. I remained silent as a group of male avatars began to form around me until I was invited to play a game with them. Nope, none of us stayed for a drink at the virtual bar…we went dinosaur chasing instead.
Without turning on my microphone, I joined. Together we roamed the earth while living the horrible nightmare of a dinosaur chasing you.
This was fun, but interruptions made it hard to keep conversations going. One male avatar who had the voice a 13-year-old boy kept screaming. You could hear the excitement running through his lungs. Someone else had a thick middle eastern accent who kept coughing saying, “Sorry I have COVID” following with “this is the most fun I’ve had in months.” Another dude continuously made strange animal or dinosaur-like noises and giggled.
Safe to say I stepped outside of my comfort zone and had to escape. Quit the game and removed the Oculus.
The metaverse or web 3 is still at its infancy stage. It is very similar to the beginning of the .com era. Imagine old-style Internet chat rooms like MSN Messenger-esque app and lingo often misspelled with trendy slang words. Like everywhere else, there are trolls and obnoxious people. Most spaces open to conversations are often dominated by men. In most chat rooms you can hear “cool bro” or “let’s fucking go bro” than anything else. The “bro culture” is rampant while the crypto queens are slowly entering the space. Hallelujah!
And while most say they want to help you make it or “WAGMI” in the space, things seem to get awkward when a girl joins.