From VR to IRL: Lifelong Friendship a Year In the Making

Posted on April 7, 2017

Earlier this year, seven avatars took their friendship from VR to IRL (in real life) and they invited AltspaceVR’s very own community manager, Lisa K, to join them. Reflecting on the experience, Lisa observed that rather than “meeting a group of strangers who were adjusting to being with each other for the first time [in real life], I felt like I was invited into a group of old friends having a reunion.” An event for the VR history books, this particular weekend was extra special:

The location: Las Vegas.

The occasion: To spend time together in the physical world.

The outcome: Countless laughs, hundreds of photos, and three days of shared meals, stories, and memories.

BEING THERE TOGETHER

Founded as a social VR experience empowering its users to ‘be there together,’ AltspaceVR provided the platform that fostered the group’s friendships. From there, AltspaceVR users Crystal, Tristero, Kathy, Buzzy, Shadow, Boba Frett, Chelsea, and Ben did the rest.

For months the group had stayed up over late-night talks, plotted over pizza slices, danced Friday into Saturday, karaoked out-of-key, celebrated each other’s birthdays, and supported one another through challenging times, transforming bonds that began as virtual reality acquaintances into friendships built on love, trust, and appreciation. After a year of avatar hugs, high fives, and impassioned emoji streams, the group decided it was time to meet IRL.

“When I saw Crystal at the airport, it was love at first sight.”

Upon arriving at Las Vegas’ McCarran International airport, there was no mistaking the emotion Chelsea felt when seeing Crystal for the first time in real life. “When I saw Crystal at the airport, it was love at first sight.” Though she had no avatar body, the connection was immediate. For some, the experience felt surreal. According to Crystal, “I was excited but nervous [to meet the group]. It was weird seeing them in real life, like almost in a dream state.” It wasn’t long before the group started acting like old friends.

The weekend was filled with unforgettable moments—shared dinners, ukulele serenades, trips to the farmers’ market, and group selfies—all IRL. It was still Vegas, of course, where the usual tales of too-late nights turning too quickly into too-early mornings filled with stories that require friends to fill in the gaps —the kind only a place like Las Vegas begets.

But beneath the typical stories ran a current of coziness and togetherness so natural it felt it had existed between these friends for a lifetime. When asked about the moments that really stuck with them, each expressed gratitude for the things that may seem small on a physical plane, but appear bigger the farther the distance becomes. Things like cooking for one another, and passing the salt, and ordering a Lyft, and the visceral warmth of an IRL hug.

EVERYTHING AND MORE

Being around friends like these IRL was a moving experience for the group. Before meeting in AltspaceVR, some said they hadn’t felt the meaning of ‘friend’ for a long, long time. Some attributed it to social anxiety, others to distance, others to their interests. Providing a safe, welcoming platform for friendship building, AltspaceVR offered a social space that was not menacing or insurmountable. It offered a space that allowed trust to form over time, growing initial virtual reality conversations into meals shared between friends in the physical world.

Buzzy, one of the group’s official foodies and its unofficial chef de cuisine (with Tristero and Kathy providing their culinary talents as well), described what it was like to cook for his virtual family in real life: “Cooking is something that I do for myself. I like food and I like to cook and I like to discover new things. I would say I’m a foodie and I’ve never had the opportunity to share that with…anybody. This was one of the greatest opportunities I’ve had to be able to share that with somebody. With people, really.” When asked if his experience was what he hoped it would be, without hesitation Buzzy replied, “It was everything and more. We all meshed,” he said later, “and now we all miss each other.”

UNTIL NEXT TIME

The group continues to use AltspaceVR to stay connected while they’re physically apart, but are already planning another IRL reunion soon. When asked what it felt like to be home from their trip, Buzzy responded, “Home? We were home when we were all together.”

To meet these friends and make new ones in AltspaceVR, keep an eye on the events calendar—join one of Ben’s Nighttime Space Parties or roast marshmallows in AltspaceVR’s Campfire space on your favorite VR device (Google Daydream, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, GearVR, or check us out in 2D Mode).

More Posts