Virtual Reality (VR) game developers Aaron Stanton and Jonathan Schenker wrote a powerful, moving response upon hearing that a female player of their game QuiVR had been sexually assaulted while playing. In an article called “My First Reality Groping” at Mic.com, Jordan Belamire described her experience in the game as being “more beautiful than [she] could have imagined” until she was virtually groped by a player named BigBro442. “You’re not being physically touched,” she reports, but the “virtual groping feels just as real… still scary as hell.”
You might expect the developers — like many who read Belamire’s account — to laugh this off, to characterize it as an oversensitive reaction. But then you’d be making a big mistake: because game developers — more than anybody else — want the effects of what happens virtually in their game environments to feel real. So they completely understand how a virtual assault can be terrifying. Stanton’s sympathetic response, posted at Upload, said his “heart sank” on hearing Belamire’s story. Then he took responsibility, saying they “should have prevented this” by using a “Personal Bubble” feature that was already in the game. Thing is, the developers had only used the “Personal Bubble” to protect the face area — so that bad-apple players couldn’t block another’s view. They simply never considered needing it to protect a player’s chest and genital areas — because they aren’t creeps. Now players can turn on the Personal Bubble to protect the whole body against unwanted groping. At least in this regard, Virtual Reality is indisputably better/safer than real reality.