In the next couple of years, Virtual Reality will take over as the dominant form of gaming, replacing archaic handheld devices with flashy helmets that immerse players in computer-driven real estate. It's going to make everyone playing feel like they're actually there, killing demons and slaying enemies — and possibly being groped by complete strangers.
So basically, kind of like real life for women.
It's what happened to Jordan Belamire, an aspiring writer and regular blogger on Medium.com. In a recent post titled My First Virtual Reality Groping, she explains the experience she had while trying out her brother's HTC Vive, a popular VR system.
"In between a wave of zombies and demons to shoot down, I was hanging out next to BigBro442, waiting for our next attack. Suddenly, BigBro442’s disembodied helmet faced me dead-on. His floating hand approached my body, and he started to virtually rub my chest.
'Stop!' I cried. I must have laughed from the embarrassment and the ridiculousness of the situation. Women, after all, are supposed to be cool, and take any form of sexual harassment with a laugh. But I still told him to stop.
This goaded him on, and even when I turned away from him, he chased me around, making grabbing and pinching motions near my chest. Emboldened, he even shoved his hand toward my virtual crotch and began rubbing.
There I was, being virtually groped in a snowy fortress with my brother-in-law and husband watching."
Like clockwork, her comment thread burst with predictable responses, some supportive, but mostly just dudes telling her to 'stop complaining.'
However, Belamire likens the experience to when she was peering over the ledge of a canyon (in virtual reality) just moments before the incident. She explains that she knew she wasn't 100 feet off the ground, but the sensation of seeing it in a virtual form was still frightening. "I didn’t fall, and I was walking on air," she says. "I was a god. Virtual reality had won me over, lock, stock and barrel." It seemed real. That's the whole point.
So when the aptly named BigBro442 came out of nowhere and started grabbing at her unprovoked, the sensation of it seemed real, too. "This sounds ludicrous to anyone who hasn’t stood on that virtual reality ledge and looked down, but if you have, you might start to understand," she adds. "The public virtual chasing and groping happened a full week ago and I’m still thinking about it."
It does sound silly, yes. Because it's new. We have no basis of comparison to lean on here. But that shouldn't denigrate her experience (or any like hers) just the same. When a woman like Belamire says something is creepy, the best thing to do is listen and evaluate what we can do better next time. This is the future, but at what cost?
Because this isn't a waiter taking a few minutes too long, or a child crying in line at the DMV, or getting a coffee that's a few degrees too hot — or any other bullshit reason grown-ass adults whine like toddlers in public. This is another form of reality, one where females are beginning to feel unwelcome. Not only does that kill the community vibe of multi-player formats, but it could quite possibly run off 51 percent of the American population from adopting a new technology. All for the sake of someone getting handsy when they're supposed to be shooting arrows into the necks of approaching villains.
What a world — and now we have two of them to worry about.