As seen in this video, I walked around VRChat and attempted to interview. My goal was to get people to think about who they were in-game, either as their avatar or the way they acted, and to play an absurd situation completely straight.
I framed my interviews as though I were an alien trying to learn more about life on Earth. In turn, I asked people what they liked or didn’t like about Earth, why they continued to live on Earth, and other things of that nature. The alien was intended to act as a visual shorthand for an outsider with no experience in VRChat’s customs which a number of people picked up and and treated me as such. Regularly, I was met with a negative viewpoint. Most people said that there was no good part about living on Earth and everything was terrible. I think this negativity reflects on the reason why people were playing VRChat; it’s a means of escapism where you can interact genuinely with people while using the anonymity and distance provided by the internet to keep from getting too close. Not included in my videos was a great deal of racism leveled primarily against black people. While unfortunately not uncommon in these spaces, the degree to which I saw this was far greater in VRChat as players were able to fill my screen with images of klansmen and also yell the n-word loudly. I did not interact with these people. A few select people (namely the purple skeleton in the video) were very receptive to my bit, often times playing along with my alien persona after having answered a few of my questions by asking me questions in return about life in space. Most people were frankly not that interested in being asked questions and spent most of their time talking with the others around them.
A big inspiration for my interviews was the Eric Andre Show but not in a normal way. The Eric Andre Show is primarily a prank show where Eric Andre puts on fake interviews for his guests where he does his best to make them uncomfortable and have them react to his bizarre mannerisms. My goal was to do the complete opposite by acting very politely and calmly in response to an incredibly strange environment. I think this works on the same level that comedian activists such as the Yes Men do. Things like the business suit that allows managers to see through cameras attached to their employee’s bodies or the all-in-one home suit used in the event of the flooding of the Earth force us to realize the ridiculousness of their context. Similarly, I wanted to have the people I interviewed have a similar moment of realization where they engage with the reasons why they play VRChat and how it differs from the greater world. I was additionally inspired by my previous interactions with VRChat. While I’d previously played VRChat playing different characters, most notably a shopping cart on a spiritual pilgrimage, I wanted to try engaging with other players in as normal a way as I could rather than adding to the visual and literal noise of people acting out. I was also inspired by Youtube channels such as All Gas No Breaks with impromptu interviews with random people at events to learn about why they were there.