The virtual world VRChat burst into mainstream consciousness with a steady stream of viral memes, but a few days ago, denizens of VRChat grappled with something much realer than swarms of Knuckles avatars: A player who appeared to suffer a seizure in VR.
VR Chat. Credit: Rogue Shadow VR
VRChat is a social platform reminiscent of Second Life. It's been downloaded over a million times in the last two weeks. In it, busty anime girls and roving armies of minions parrot memes and insults to one another over voice chat. Players can navigate VRChat with a mouse and keyboard or with the VR hardware HTC Vive.
On Wednesday, YouTuber Rogue Shadow VR released a video depicting a more human side of VRChat. In it, a robot avatar is standing amongst an enormous Pokemon, Morty from Rick and Morty, a leprechaun, and other strange creatures. After a few seconds, the avatar collapses. Its body convulses on the ground. Laboured breathing can be heard over voice chat. Standing around it, a group of players grows increasingly concerned and, looking at his body, question whether the robot's operator, who wore motion-tracking hardware, was having a seizure.
"I honestly don't remember a lot of it," that robot, who did not want us to use his real name but goes by DrunkenUnicyclist, told me over the phone today. "I do remember feeling cold all the sudden. After that, I woke up and I was on the floor. I could hear these voices." DrunkenUnicyclist added that he has had a seizure in the past, when he was five, although he says he doesn't suffer from epilepsy or any other condition that might have caused this.
After a long pause, DrunkenUnicyclist responded that he was OK. Suddenly, VRChat's community got serious. Everybody immediately urged him to drink water, and call somebody who could help. Some players told DrunkenUnicyclist to seek medical attention, although, as of this article's publication, DrunkenUnicyclist says he has not seen a doctor. Someone told a Ugandan Knuckles avatar to shut up. When an avatar of a fat man in a diaper begins to repeatedly sit on the robot, players chastise him.
"Please, stop, this is actually really serious," snapped a player.
"The entire community is coming together for the betterment of this person. Don't be that one guy," said Morty, making gestures with his motion-tracked hands.
"It was comforting to know somebody was there after it was all said and done," DrunkenUnicyclist said. "It's really amazing that people can come together like that over somebody who's in distress. In a world where nobody even knows each other, really."