As COVID-19 puts our lives on an indefinite pause, the realization that it’ll be a while before we head out to an all-night rave is now hitting us. Experts speculate that we’re stuck with the social distancing norms and post covid whereabouts for at least a year or two.
Virtual reality swoops in to sidestep when Life seems to be at Stand still. The internet is littered with Live steaming, Live shows, cloud based clubs since the pandemic hit us. The Global lockdowns and social distancing norms marked the beginning of Virtual Events with a kick start.
From the Films Festivals to live shows, we’re seeing routinely scheduled social interaction shapeshift into online entities, even at the cost of losing their exclusivity to make them more accessible.
But while it’s easy to stumble upon an avalanche of livestream sets on YouTube or Instagram, as well as get into the Zoom's most exclusive offer. Zoom private Party if you try hard enough, these options eventually start to feel a bit flat.
As we begin to experience Fatigue with these sessions and live calls and find it difficult to stay connected even with internet access, these strange times call for something far more immersive than two-dimensional videos can offer: virtual social networks, including video games that emulate their processes.
It’s as simple as downloading an application or logging onto a website on your phone or laptop. Even though platforms like Second Life do offer the augmented reality experience through VR headsets, this special gear isn’t a necessity to use the platform. And this all-area access to once-exclusive events is going to change the way we interact with each other forever.
Meanwhile, as more people locked indoors log onto gamer-specific streaming platforms and chat rooms like Twitch or Discord and devote their days to online gaming, we’re seeing video games also entertaining an entirely new kind of user. Whether it's Travis Scott launching Astronomical, a video-game concert, on Fortnite, graduations being held on Animal Crossing or the myriad of metaverses that Minecraft has to offer, these online games are becoming increasingly self-sufficient socializing platforms.
“The idea behind online club is to create a de-colonial, queer-friendly space that breaks away from heteronormative, neurotypical, and white hegemonic expectations of what a venue should be.
Milestone moments like college graduations and prom nights are adapting to the times with their own online versions. And this becomes increasingly expansive when you factor in the virtual social networks that have had the last two decades to sort out the kinks and perfect their platform models to brave unexpected situations, the pandemic in this case. Virtual social networks like Second Life, which has seen a 40 percent increase in the amount of time a user stays logged in, are building upon and improving models for their loyal communities that have been in place for years.
While most events are free to the public, some venues charge rental fees for use of their virtually programmed space while, in some cases, there are admission fees charged to access an event. Many performers have started to accept tips using Linden Dollars, the unit of trade in Second Life ($1 = 320 LD).” Similarly, IMVU also monetises their model by charging users who want to host an event a subscription fee to create experiences, design the space and market it through chat rooms, though attending the event is usually free for whoever they invite.
These virtual social networks then take things to the next level by offering to convert your currency into a virtual version that then unlocks everything including avatar upgrades, specially-designed outfits, and even pet animals on an online marketplace. Besides these incentives, these virtual worlds foster their own influencer networks, where users can blog through their online avatars and collaborate with brands through animation-based experiences that don’t require outdoor locations or physical products to shoot. They have also regularly been hosting fundraisers to generate economic support for healthcare workers, World Health Organization research and COVID-19 vaccine funds.
While it’s fascinating to unravel the world of virtual reality and get into the uniquely captivating experiences they offer, these will also impact our interactions out in the real world, especially as we start spending more time in these surreal worlds—by force or by choice.