Topic: Technology

VR gamer experiences sexual assault

By Talisa Kupenga

With technology and game development blurring the virtual world into more of a reality, some gamers are sexually harassing fellow players in the VR (virtual reality) gaming space. While playing VR game QuiVr, a woman was sexually assaulted through her female avatar by another player. As a former victim of sexual assault, she says the violation felt very real.

Warning - This story may contain sexual themes.

VR gaming, it's where the virtual and real worlds meet. But some players are ruining the experience for other gamers in these alternate worlds.

Sexual Abuse Prevention Network General Manager Fiona McNamara says, "The point of a virtual reality game is to create a virtual reality. And if you are sexually harassed then you essentially have the same experience as if you were sexually harassed in real life. The point is that this game is created so that what happens to you feels real."

While shooting zombies in QuiVr, another player rubbed a woman's chest and shoved their "hand" toward the crotch of her avatar. Although the players physically feel nothing, the incident appalled the game's developers prompting them to create an in-game anti-harassment tool-kit.

Chief Game Developer Maru Nihoniho says, “So they've come up with a way to give the avatar a power which if someone else goes to touch them in game you can put a force-field around yourself and so that stops, well it doesn't stop, it fades out the person that is trying to harass you so they don’t get any benefit from trying to harass you. So they've made that tool-kit available to other developers when they create virtual reality games."

VR worlds are becoming more prevalent. Real estate agents use them to sell properties to buyers before being built and VR pornography experiences can be tailored to your environment. But Nihoniho says with more female developers on the rise, female representation in the VR world could shift.

"It is male dominated at the moment [but it is] changing and I think with that change well see games that have a lot of different content than what we're seeing now.”

If you are being harassed while gaming, players can report the issue to the game's creators and request offending players be blocked or removed from the game.