Virtual reality is an exciting new frontier for game developers, but along with the good, they’re finding plenty of bad. Surprising no one, harassment is a problem in VR. We’re still feeling out the limits of personal space in VR, but users agree: encounters with abusive users can be viscerally upsetting (cw: sexual harassment).
So what can developers do to help users? In the example at the link, the creators of QuiVR created a personal bubble users could invoke with a gesture. But if an encounter gets particularly unpleasant, a personal bubble isn’t going to do the job — and for those situations, Against Gravity, the developers of Rec Room have users fall back on a classic: “Talk to the hand.”
Rec Room is a social VR experience, so real world gestures are in their wheelhouse. To make friends, you shake hands. To mute yourself, you cover your mouth. And to banish an unfriendly user, you put your hand out in the traditional gesture for “leave me alone.” Check it out in the video above.
For circumstances where blocking isn’t the perfect solution, Rec Room has other options. Like QuiVR, it has a personal bubble, the Ignore Bubble, where other users will disappear. If someone tries to touch your avatar in a way you don’t want to be touched, they can’t — their extremities literally vanish when they get too close. As for players who are being more widely abusive, Rec Room has classic reporting and kicking options, too.
We haven’t really mastered harassment on any platform, so VR comes with risks. With devs like Against Gravity setting standards for player safety, though, the good may well end up outweighing the bad.