We Met in Virtual Reality. Exploring Metaverse / Sundance 2022

by paradoxig

The Metaverse is here – an entire new universe that allows people to meet, connect and have joint experiences. VR and social VR is really a game changer, and it will impact our life in many ways, even if it is still in the beginning. In VR worlds, people can have experiences together , and as such connect in a deeper way, compared to previous social media tools.
It is a new phase and step toward an even more globalized culture, where you can actually meet and connect with people from all over the world.

As a pioneering documentary filmed in VR, WE MET IN VIRTUAL REALITY has the advantage of catching exactly these emerging movements, this first shift in the way we interact, accelerated by the pandemic.
It is also significant that the stories were captured during Covid lockdown, making us understand the mediating effect of new-tech on how people socialize and express themselves.

The documentary explores social VR, specifically VRChat, a universe – or a metaverse – where people interact and embody avatars created all inside VR. Directed, filmed, edited and written by Joe Hunting, the story examines new forms of human engagement, following different story lines with discussions about identity, gender, sexuality, disability, or trauma. It offers an array of relatable experiences, thus breaking the common stereotype that only adolescents enjoy these worlds.
The film follows people that spend time in VRChat, revealing their stories, activities and how they connect and express themselves, and find community during a time when our physical life was interrupted.

While the stories unfold, different aspects that make VR so appealing to people are highlighted. One issue explored is related to identity and embodiment – social VR offers a magical world where you can be whoever you want to be: a robot, a bunny, a girl or boy, an alien, a giant, or even an animal, and you can change your avatar while talking. You can experience the world from these unique perspectives. In terms of activities, the films show you a mix of possible experiences such as riding camels, visiting a park with dinosaurs, learning sign language or just sitting in nature, and enjoying a sunset.

As a social experience, it reveals a generation and global culture, where you can have common experiences, adventures, or start a new business, or even a romantic relationship with people from the other corner of the world. Your dancing teacher can be from anywhere in the world.

Every generation had its way to connect – through letters, chat, messengers, social media, video calls. VR introduces the opportunity of visuals and joint experiences that might create an even more powerful bond.
Two romantic stories are followed: the long-distance relationship between DustyBunny & Toaster and DragonHeart & IsYourBoi, each with its unique story that was made possible through VR. We will even witness a VR-wedding – we don’t tell you which pair 🙂

The film focuses on the individual and personal experiences in VR worlds, and the huge potential of social VR in enlarging and enriching our lives.
It avoids the sensitive discussions and the public concerns related to potential harm of these universes, when greed, money and business would like to profit too much from the wonder that technology and creativity can offer.
What will happen when companies creating these universes will have, for example, too much sensitive data about a person, a group? Who will profit from these datas and how? Just to name a few questions make audiences reserved, especially about social VR.

Nevertheless, the movie remains an important testimony in revealing the experiences of the first generation of Metaversers.
As Shari Frillot, Chief Curator of New Frontier, explained it: “I found it difficult to explain the magic, the new breed, the new brand of humanity that I was experiencing, and the new brand of physics. It is very hard to share that with my colleagues. And what is great about this film, and why it is here in the competition, is because this film, actually, manages to do that”.
So, next time, somebody asks you, “what exactly are people doing in those strange headsets?”, you can direct it to this movie.

It would be very curious how future generations will think about these very first VR social spaces, when watching this documentary. Because it is true that these first worlds have some minuses: VR headsets are too heavy, a lot of wires (simple glasses would be so much better), it is still hard to make movements, body tracking is not perfect, avatars are hard-to-make and still very cartoonish, interactions does not respect physicality (your hands can for the moment ‘enter’ in the floor)
It will be like when you are watching the film ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and smile a little bit about how the internet used to in the ‘old ages’ – meaning 20 years ago- ?

WE MET IN VIRTUAL REALITY premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2022

Video from Sundance Film Festival

Joe Hunting is a filmmaker from the UK focused on directing documentary works inside Virtual Reality (VR) app VRChat, creating poetic films that blend reality and fiction through joyful immersive worlds. Prior to the yearlong production of We Met in Virtual Reality, Hunting released two short documentaries, A Wider Screen and Club Zodiac, and the comedy series Virtually Speaking, all filmed inside VR.


Director, editor, screenwriter and Producer: Joe Hunting
Executive Producer: Charlotte Cook, Bryn Mooser, Kathryn Everett
Music by: Anna Meredith, Perfume Genius, Julianna Barwick
Featuring: Jenny VR, DustBunny VR, Toaster VR, IsYourBoi VR, DragonHeart VR

All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs.

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