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VRChat has been an endless source of memes, Twitch clips, and general all around fun, but a certain segment of the gaming community is finding new life in this virtual reality chat room. A community of deaf VRChat players are using the game to communicate with one another — and they’re also inventing new kinds of sign language.
Virtual reality is still somewhat niche in the gaming world, so the whole VRChat thing might warrant some explanation. Essentially, players pick up their motion controller, don a virtual reality headset, and enter a 3D world where they can speak with one another and move about in a three-dimensional, interactive environment. Players can select pretty much any conceivable thing as their player avatar, so of course it’s filled with everything from anime characters to Internet memes and everything in-between.
Many deaf players, however, are unable to speak. They are able to communicate with sign language, but the complexities of the movements wouldn’t normally be possible in a regular video game without a heck of a lot of programming. The motion controls allow deaf VRChat players to simulate much of American Sign Language, giving them a voice in a medium where they once had none save for text chat.
As /r/Games highlights, YouTuber Syrmor visited one such community and learned about what these deaf VRChat players have going on. An interactive room in the virtual reality world showcases some of the challenges these gamers have had to overcome, filling in the gaps of the technology.
You see, sign language requires some very precise movements, but not all controllers are capable of this. One example given early in the video is the sign for “world”, which requires making a “W” sign on each hand and spinning them in a circle. That’s just not possible with all VR systems, so the players have invented a new sign for use within the VR space. Furthermore, these deaf VRChat players created new nicknames for one another as spelling out the individual letters of their respective names can often be cumbersome (if not outright impossible).
The community’s dedication to communication is quite thorough, going as far as to provide an ASL interpreter for a pastor’s sermon. Several hearing volunteers — that is, people who are not deaf — help out with the community and bridge the gaps between those who cannot hear and those who cannot communicate with sign language. It’s a challenge to be sure, but the appreciation of some of the community makes it all the more worthwhile. It’s best explained by this story from one of the members of the community.
“It happened in a car accident in around 6th grade. Glass went into my ear. The window broke making glass fly at me. A lot of people bully me. It’s always the customers. They come to me like, ‘Hey, can I have—’ and I say, ‘I can’t hear you.’ And they’re like, ‘What are you doing?!’ and they get all pissed off, [saying] ‘I want your manager right now.’ So they always yell at me and my [co-workers] joke about my hearing a lot, and I’m pretty scared a lot at work.”
When that same player was asked about their greatest experience in the deaf community, their response was short but heartfelt.
“Meeting my new family.”
You can learn more about the deaf VRChat community by watching the video below.
[Images credit: Syrmor on YouTube]