In late January, two VRChat streamers, Nuts and Chipz, married each other in front of their closest friends and 8,000 people watching on Twitch.
Chipz and Nuts’ special day was one of the most anticipated events in VRChat, with the tale of their wedding spreading quickly through the virtual community. It was a momentous occasion for two of the most loved role-players, and a beautiful end to an ongoing saga. Their wedding was more than a gimmick or declaration of virtual love; it was a reminder that interesting episodic stories are being told in VRChat.
The wedding wasn’t just an event. It was a season finale.
How did this start?
David is better known to the VRChat community as Chipz. With just under 500,000 channel views according to SocialBlade, he’s not a small-time streamer. David used to be a music streamer, but after talking to a friend, decided to take his talents to the world of VRChat. He began his VRChat career walking around public forums and streaming himself serenading couples.
Chipz gained recognition for his act, and began to meet new friends along the way. He eventually stumbled upon a VRChat player who went by the name Nuts, but whose real name is Robin. She reacted strongly to his musical ability and from there, David told Polygon, “craziness ensued.”
“Later that night we had a casting party, where we were going to cast my girlfriend,” David explained over Skype. “That was my first experience with role-playing. I don’t really have any experience there. I’m just kind of a musician. I have a lot of friends who helped me with my first excursion into role-playing, and that’s how I met Nuts.”
Drama followed Nuts and Chipz in the following days as they began getting to know each other, kicking off a cyclone of storytelling that drew David further into the world of role-playing. It all began with a virtual date in VRChat that Chipz went on with another girl he met around the same time as Nuts. Nuts found out about it, and “of course, drama ensued,” David said.
“We started playing up the drama aspect of it, the drama that comes with relationships, and failings and miscommunications,” David said. “That’s when I really started getting into it. Communication is key, especially with role-playing groups, so we kind of started getting into the basics of improv and I got sucked into that world. It all kind of spiraled out of control at that point.”
A fandom built up around them before either Chipz or Nuts knew it. Tumblr kids were creating fan art, and there were dozens of videos on YouTube documenting their love. Nuts and Chipz effectively created a soap opera or weekly teen drama, a la Days of Our Lives or The OC.
Nuts and Chipz’s rise in popularity, however, became a double-edged sword. Fans started wanting the episodes, as David calls them, to play out a certain way. If Nuts and Chipz did anything fans didn’t agree with, people weren’t afraid to vocalize their disappointment.
“It’s the internet, so there’s going to be people who like to say things and stir up things just for the sake of it,” David said. “As long as there’s constant communication between us, there’s really no issue.”
As the role-playing relationship between Nuts and Chipz got deeper, so did the storylines. Meaningful conversations about trust in relationships and how people recover from betrayal hit viewers hardest. To help assure their fans that the people behind the avatars were OK, the pair started hosting aftershows where they dropped the pretense of their characters and spoke directly to their community.
“Viewers would get really upset and take it out on the real person or streamer,” David said. “To stop that, I set up the after show where I made it very clear this is David and Robin talking, not Chipz and Nuts. They got the message that, ‘Oh, everything is OK. They’re good friends and this is just a show.’ I mean, of course they try to ship us IRL, but they gotta calm it down.”
David doesn’t talk about his private life. He tries to keep his public persona and his virtual life as Chipz inside the metaphorical four walls of the internet. It’s important that he can decipher between the two — between David and Chipz — even if his fans can’t. The everlasting tale of Nuts and Chipz is the only thing David’s fans care about, which is why the drama around the wedding struck a chord.
David blames the wedding problems on poor communication with his role-playing group. A private server was going to be used for the ceremony the night that Nuts and Chipz were to tie the knot. Public forums on VRChat became infested with trolls, griefers and hackers, making it impossible for the entire team to get together and have the wedding, David said. When another popular role-player didn’t get an invite to the wedding, becoming upset that her friends didn’t include her, the tension between members of the inner circle seemed to multiply. At least, that’s how fans saw it.
When asked about people being left out, David said it was all a matter of miscommunication, adding that he didn’t think the wedding was going to be a big deal.
“We were almost at 8,000 viewers, which surprised me a lot,” David said. “It was hard. Everybody wanted to be a part of it and I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to organize everything so it can go out without a hitch. I spent like three or four hours before that trying to find the perfect place for the wedding. We did some social media stuff. Like, we sent a wedding invite out that someone made for us as fan art, but I really didn’t expect it to be that big.”
This gets to the heart of what the wedding represents for David and Robin: the end of a season. VRChat is quickly becoming a go-to place for storytellers who want to broadcast their role-playing sessions. Nuts and Chipz are just two popular characters, but there are dozens of stories being told in VRChat right now that have episode titles, seasons and premiere dates. Some players are even creating season premiere teaser trailers. The teaser trailer below, for example, is for the second season of popular VRChat player Nakagawa Natsix’s role-playing adventures. Natsix, like David, views each session as an episode, labelling it as such on YouTube.
David sees the wedding as the end of Nuts and Chipz’s season for now. He describes the relationship between Nuts and Chipz as a season, noting they produced 15 episodes in the span of their relationship. About halfway through their time together, David realized they were making episodes and, more importantly, understanding that people were watching streams on Twitch and uploaded videos to YouTube as episodes.
“They want to see progressions of characters, and people are tuning in because this is dramatic programming,” David said. “Whether they see it as an IRL drama or a soap opera, they’re enjoying these characters and they want to see what happens with these characters. So I started labeling the streams as episodes, acknowledging I was going to create an entire season and making the season finale the wedding. It seemed like the perfect way to end everything off.”
One of the big differences between what David and Robin are doing with their characters versus traditional television actors is the immediate reaction and criticism from fans. If Chipz says something to Nuts that fans disagree with, the chat window can often blow up with negative comments. Although David tries his best not to look down at his arm to look at what chat is saying (an immersion-shattering sin in the role-playing community), having comments and feedback so readily available makes it hard to look away.
David is fine with critical commentary and, as a storyteller, welcomes feedback that he can use in future episodes. The issue, however, is that viewers criticize David and Robin as streamers, not their characters or their storylines.
“It really gets to people, and some people are really sensitive,” David said. “When all you read is hate, especially when you’re trying to put on a show, it’s like, ‘Oh, that one hurts.’”
The role-playing community is a supportive, tight-knit group for the most part, David says, but like anything online, there’s always going to be a few bad apples. David said he and Robin stopped looking at social media feeds after a particularly draining episode because they don’t want to deal with the comments. Their in-game relationship was never supposed to be this cultural moment for VRChat, and both streamers are trying to learn how to act as accidental celebrities. Unfortunately, that includes knowing how to deal with bullies.
As the first season of their show comes to a close also come obvious questions about the future. Does Nuts and Chipz’s relationship continue into the second season? Do they even produce a second season, or do they let it live forever as this exciting moment that happened in a quickly budding world?
“I have no clue,” David said with a laugh. “I have absolutely no idea. I’m almost afraid of where it will go. It was a really cool experience, and it was really wholesome and loving, and I’d like it to remain that way. I don’t want to see it tainted in any way. I don’t know what that would mean for the future. Technically the characters are married now, but we haven’t really forwardly progressed that arc at all, so who knows?”