Mind Your Manners: Virtual Reality Etiquette

Virtual Reality Chat Etiquette

It’s important to be nice to other people.

Little things like greeting others with a smile, or trying to not invade other people’s personal space, make interacting more enjoyable for everyone. Conversely, inappropriate or confrontational behavior can easily offend others or make them feel uncomfortable.

Good manners are no less important in virtual reality. While a player may not be physically in the same room as others, they can feel just as threatened or uncomfortable, thanks to the immersive nature of the technology. Even in VR, it’s weird if someone you don’t know (or don’t like) keeps standing just a little bit too close to you.

Making Gaming Fun for Everyone

It’s no secret that online gaming can be a mixed bag at times. While the majority of gamers are polite and respectful of fellow players, a small yet vocal minority can make things difficult for others.

This goes beyond genuine bad behavior—while there are cases of players being disrespectful in VR spaces, there’s also an issue that, because virtual reality games are so new, many players don’t realize what behaviors will make others feel awkward or displeased, or are unaware of the accidents that can happen in games like AltSpaceVR, such as when players bump into each other or see through one another—all things which can create a very disconcerting experience in such an immersive gaming platform.

AltSpaceVR Virtual Reality Etiquette
Interactions in AltSpaceVR can feel just as real as offline conversations. Image source: AltSpaceVR via YouTube.

The good news is that the vast majority of gamers are committed to being polite and accepting of others, and not doing something in public spaces that make other players feel uncomfortable. Game developers are also getting involved by seeking out ways to make player interactions feel more natural and less abrasive. Things like an optional safety zone to keep other players at a certain, comfortable distance, or limits on what behavior will be accepted online, can help make VR a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone.

Making The New Rules of VR Etiquette

While developers work to make VR more inclusive for everyone, there’s also plenty that gamers are doing to set up rules of proper conduct in virtual reality. Over time, VR will develop along the same lines as any other community, with people learning what others do and don’t like in their interactions.

Just as there are social rules for conducting conversations in real life, gamers are going to slowly come up with our own informal laws about what behavior is acceptable in virtual reality.

VR Chat Etiquette
When attending a comedy night in VRChat, for instance, it’s polite to not move around too much and distract the comedian. Image source: VRChat.net.

Eventually, as these online communities develop, these rules of behavior will expand so that players can communicate a lot through body language. Hand and head movements will gain new meanings as players use particular actions to communicate emotions and to emphasize their expressions.

We have no way of knowing yet just how these rules of etiquette and behavior will develop, but it’s important to keep an eye on what’s going on in public spaces, as player interactions online will also affect what gamers expect from NPCs in single-player experiences.

How VR Will Change the Single-Player Experience

All of the same guidelines for good behavior that apply in online VR spaces are also pertinent in single-player, offline games.

Players feel a sense of claustrophobia and discomfort when a non-player character gets too close in just the same way as they do when it’s a real person’s avatar, and too much animated movement from an NPC can be a bit alarming.

Every gesture and interaction is made all the more powerful thanks to the immersive nature of VR. Having an NPC shouting in your face in three dimensions, after all, is a lot more unnerving than watching two characters interact from a two-dimensional, third-person perspective.

Etiquette in Loading Human VR
NPCs in Loading Human display emotions like real people, whether they’re being polite at first meeting, or more open and honest as the player gets to know them.

Depending on the intended reaction from the player, games developers will craft NPCs that are either respectful of the rules of polite VR society, or completely ignore them. In a horror game, for example, the jarring experience of having a monster get up close and personal with the player creates a highly tense and disturbing experience.

Single-player games can also use traditional societal rules to help players develop affection for fictional characters. In Loading Human, Alice displays intimacy with the player through meeting their gaze, through body language, and through physical closeness.

This is contrasted with Dorian’s deliberate, isolated distance from the player—locked behind a glass screen and constantly abrasive in attitude, it doesn’t take long for the player to learn to treat this character with suspicion and unease.

As game developers learn more about how players are interacting in online VR spaces, the specific rules of etiquette in virtual reality can be further applied to the single-player experience to make games more enjoyable and emotionally powerful.

Above All, Be Polite

For those looking engage with others in virtual spaces, there’s a simple rule that needs to be followed—treat others with respect.

Customs and polite manners specific to virtual reality are bound to develop over time, but in the meantime, it’s up to the players to keep things civil and keep the various VR worlds they visit open and welcoming to all.

To try out the immersive world of Loading Human and its complex VR characters, order the game today—it’s currently available for PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift.


Lead image source: Austin Tate’s Blog


Michelle Peniche

Pokemon catcher, coffee lover, part time road tripper.

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