A video of a man reportedly having a seizure in VRChat, a popular VR game akin to Second Life, has attracted attention from people across the internet — including VRChat Inc.’s executive team.
VRChat, which can be played with an HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or mouse and keyboard, is a chaotic online world where people can hang out and partake in strange adventures. In the video above, a group of VRChat players can be seen crowding around a man with a robot avatar, who is convulsing on the ground. His breathing is erratic and his movements are jumpy, causing the people around him, including Rogue Shadow VR, the person who uploaded the video to YouTube, to ask him if he’s okay.
DrunkenUnicyclist, the player who had the seizure in the game, told Kotaku that he doesn’t suffer from epilepsy, although he did have a seizure at age five, Therefore, he couldn’t have predicted that he was going to have a seizure while playing the game.
DrunkenUnicyclist was happy that there were people around, including total strangers, who were willing to help him, he told Kotaku. This is true especially in a world like VRChat, where it’s easy to brush off strange behavior as a meme. In a commentary video, Rogue Shadow admits that he took a second to ask if DrunkenCyclist was joking, because he didn’t know what to believe was genuine or fake in VRChat.
“If you don’t know about VRChat there are so many jokers on there,” Rogue Shadow says. “It was really hard to tell if it was serious or not for the first several seconds. Then after a little bit, I realized this was the real deal. But there was no way we could tell at first because all we see is this character that he’s playing as.”
Once everyone in the room begins to understand what’s happening, you can see the tone in the room change. Players tell each other to back up, in order to give DrunkenUnicyclist some virtual space. Other players repeatedly ask him if he’s doing OK, checking on his breathing. When a multicolored, psychedelic-looking rag doll appears, other players try to get the avatar to walk away in case it affects DrunkenUnicyclist.
The VRChat community is applauding the players who helped DrunkenUnicyclist out, and those who don’t play the game but have taken an interest following the video. Players now want medical alert buttons in the game that will allow people to ping a moderator if something is happening.
Ron Millar, VRChat Inc.’s chief creative officer, told Polygon that he has seen the video.
“I’m surprised people would be in a full-body tracking suit” if they had suffered from seizures in the past, said Millar.
But Millar, a long-time veteran of the video game industry, said that he was unsurprised at the community’s response. VRChat players are drawn to large events, and they will often respond to someone in dire need of assistance.
While moderators can’t physically check in on players, if they are present during a similar type of event, the team can offer some help, explained Millar.
“We have technology to warp people out of those instances,” he said.
This isn’t the first time that someone has gotten hurt while playing around in a social game like VRChat, although not because of the game itself. On Reddit, one user documented their experience in a game called Rec Room after they took a nasty fall during a game of virtual darts.
I tried out rec room for the first time and had no clue what I was getting into. First I was just randomly throwing darts and somehow that led to throwing a frisbee around with a few other people. I was so amazed by how accurate the motion was. Then someone threw the frisbee towards me but it was a bit too far to the left and I was like “I got this!” and dove for it.
It was that moment reality came crashing before my eyes. Like literally. I dove head first into my desk containing dishes and glasses and other odds and ends as well as my bookshelf. All you hear was just this loud BLAM followed by glass shattering followed by me simultaneously swearing, moaning in pain, and laughing my ass off. Everyone around me heard the noise and stopped what they were doing. They all walked up to me going “Bro, you ok?” “What happened?!”
Millar said part of the team’s mission is to ensure that players are kept safe, and that their needs and concerns are met. The issue is that with people using VRChat as a place to troll other players, it can be difficult to figure out who is joking around and who isn’t. Millar said they’re working on a way to filter out more bad actors.
“Is this person doing this to make a video that will get clicks on YouTube?” Millar said, generalizing players’ big question. “It’s something we’re working on.”
Rogue Shadow told Polygon via email that he isn’t surprised people are calling the video fake. But he said that there’s no reason that DrunkenUnicyclist, whom he called “a very down-to-earth guy, very genuine and a mature gamer,” would put himself in that position.
“I’m sure he and others who have dealt with epileptic seizures would not want this message of awareness muffled by other people looking to grab attention by claiming something is fake,” Rogue Shadow said.
Rogue Shadow added that VR users show know that if another player is “showing signs of distress or harm, people need to either respond with concern or leave the situation.” The worst thing to do would be to aggravate the situation further.
“As seen in the video, some jokers were not taking the situation seriously, there were, however, a majority of bystanders that showed a lot of care and concern like myself, and I think that’s how it should be,” Rogue Shadow said. “It also goes to show how the VR community can come together to show concern for a complete stranger.”