It’s hard to think of a concept that went from taboo to pretty much ubiquitous as fast as internet dating. These days, I really can’t remember the last time I asked a couple how they met and they didn’t answer “Hinge”.
Recently, I took a trip to the metaverse to find out if it was possible to have fun at night and it was… very average. Now I want to find out if the metaverse holds the key to the future of dating and, dare I say, love in the 21st century.
A quick recap of what the metaverse is: Contrary to what some might think, it’s not just one virtual world, but many smaller free-roaming worlds created by different developers with different concepts.
Luke Franks, host of the Welcome To The Metaverse podcast explained this to me saying: “I like to think that, soon, it’s going to be like a different country, you know, you’re going to a different virtual world. for different purposes. experiences, and some will like, are fully gamified and some may be educational.”
While you can access many of these worlds on your laptop or desktop PC, recent advances in virtual reality technology have turned the heads of major tech companies. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all have investments in some form or another in the metaverse, so it’s not a matter of whether to take off, but rather when.
However, we are very much in the era of our Nokia 3210 now. Think: big, clunky devices that are attractive but relatively primitive. But if there’s one thing we want to do on our old phones, it’s express our undying love for our crush in an instant via text, only to retract the comment moments later under the guise of “sorry, that’s my friend lol”.
In December, Tinder CEO Renate Nyborg told Reuters the company had “been talking about Tinderverse internally, which is more about blurring the line between offline and online”. If any of the biggest figures in today’s dating landscape were interested in exploring the metaverse, it’s safe to say it would be something.
The color I’m interested in. However, before I really look for romance in the metaverse, I have to reveal that I am a newly married man. But after talking to my wife, we are fine. His answer, I don’t care, is “I ordered pizza”, which means he either doesn’t care or he thinks it’s going to be so bad that he wants to enjoy his favorite meal while watching. chaos.
To start, I met Chris Crew, CEO of the world’s first VR dating app, Planet Theta. He booked me into their Saturday night beta test. Since the app is basically being tested for bugs right now, any actual date with me on Planet Theta doesn’t make much sense, but Crew told me via Zoom that there will be four different types of places you can go on Planet Theta: micro dating, dating . coffee shops, social areas (such as nightclubs) and dating areas (think: virtual apartments or “enchanted streets”).
Two people on a coffee date on Planet Theta. Photo: courtesy of the author
Micro-dating is equivalent to swiping right or left, where the platform’s AI picks three different people based on your preferences – simple things like age, gender, and sexual orientation – and matches you with three different people. Each date lasts one minute and is structured with predefined ice-breaking questions.
“We think at that point, you’ll be able to decide whether you want to spend more time with that person or not,” Crew said. From there, you can invite them over for coffee – “which is a five minute date where you get to know someone better”. (I’m very disappointed, the coffee is just virtual and the Gadget Inspector-style compartment doesn’t open on your headset to pour hot chocolate down your throat.)
From there, you can date them further within the app or continue dating in real life – but with Planet Theta is still in beta, I’m looking into what you can actually do to find love in the metaverse right now.
I decided to speak to London dating expert Hayley Quinn, who gave me her best tips for romance in the hopes that some of them will translate to the digital world. I’ve been with my current partner for about five years now, so I’m a bit rusty on the dating front.
“Avoid asking questions you don’t really care about: do you really need to know how long someone has been working for?” Quinn says, “Try asking big questions like, ‘what’s one thing you’d like to learn?’ or ‘what’s on your wish list?’
It’s time to test it. And since the only dedicated dating app currently available has yet to launch, I had no choice but to find love in VRChat, the open-world desktop app that launched in 2014 and has since made the leap into the metaverse. And yes, I’m taking full advantage of the fact that I don’t have to get ready for the world of dating by sticking with PJs, a change of clothes, and sandals.
Here we go, to the metaverse.
The Meta Quest 2 headset is sleek and well-designed, but is actually quite heavy – about a pound and a half of flour. After a while, I really felt like my neck muscles were going to cramp, which isn’t really the sexiest feeling when you’re trying to navigate love. I put pain in the back of my mind and remember the massive size of the first phone. Did the first entrepreneur to get a cell phone complain? No, they awkwardly removed their phones from their holsters and turned them on!
After randomly selecting an avatar that looked like a sock man in a suit and going through a very simple tutorial, I was given a choice of five portals: “Relax Vibes”, “Play Game”, “Home”, “Find Avatar” and “Party time” . I decided to go with “Relaxing Vibes” in hopes that I could find a quiet corner to potentially seduce someone.
A brief loading screen later, I found myself in a high-rise apartment overlooking the serene city skyline. I took a walk and found a rundown room in the back where I could see, what I can only describe as “a frogman giving fellatio to a toadstool”, followed by a man with a trash can on his head getting a tattoo from a fairy. Feeling the very quirky vibe and feeling of Louis Theroux at a swingers party, I decided it was time to go.
Toadstool and frogman connected on VRChat.
Disappointed that I couldn’t try my new dating technique, and worried that I wouldn’t be a beginner without using a certain dating app, I turned back to my dating guru, Hayley Quinn. He told me that a good way to approach people is to “start by acknowledging what you did, which is ‘sorry, I know I broke but…’ because that will help a lot to show you the social intelligence of your surroundings and make sure people others enthusiastically participated in the conversation before continuing.”
I’m not sure this will work on the toadstool or the binhead guy. But Quinn does offer some advice on how to deal with rejection: “If the other person isn’t replying, have a nice day and get out of there! You just want to connect with people who are openly open about it.” social like you.”
A binhead guy gets a pixie tattoo on VRChat.
Of course, not everyone behaves well when it comes to rejection. One of the main criticisms of the metaverse is how the platform protects women, people of different ethnicities and LGBTQ people. Groping, assault Sexual harassment and gang rape have all been reported in the metaverse.
“First, I would say, compared to the harassment that people face in person, the harassment that people can face in VR is far less,” Planet Theta’s CEO Crew explained via Zoom. “Not that it doesn’t. there is – it’s real. People can definitely get emotionally hurt, and feel like ostracized. You can definitely feel like you’ve been violated in VR, but you won’t actually be kidnapped. Whenever you feel really insecure, you can always turn off this sucker,” he said, pointing at the Meta headset at Planet Theta Headquarters.
But, at least to me, your avatar feels like an extensiononly from your body. I’ve hugged and touched the virtual face of my friend Victor – the only other person I know in the real world with Meta Quest 2 – and even though there’s no tension suppressed, you still feel the same feeling if you let it. people into your personal space.
At Planet Theta, says Crew, they’re trying to tackle this problem head-on by giving users the option to mute people and make them disappear from their view (a very black mirror). If multiple users tag someone in a short time, they will be booted.
“Strangers or people you don’t get along with can’t get into your bubble, which basically means they can’t reach out and touch you in VR,” adds Crew. “They could be a little closer to you, but that’s roughly the equivalent of about two or three feet from you.”
But what if I really want to be close to people (with their enthusiastic approval, of course)?
My next venture was to an app called AltSpaceVR, Microsoft’s answer to the metaverse, which, according to their website, “is the leading platform for live virtual events, empowering artists, brands, and businesses to easily design meaningful experiences that drive community and connection.” . A meaningful experience that fosters connection, you say? Sounds like the perfect place to find love!
I dress my avatar confidently in purple hair, dungarees, and a smart blue top and head to the “bonfire” room in AltspaceVR. Immediately, I went to the couple who told me they were recently divorced and met here to talk. I’m very interested in learning more but I’m also very aware that I might be annoying and remember what Quinn said about people not replying. Another dead end!
Felt as if I would never find love in the metaverse, and as I approached the portal to return to my home screen, a beautiful woman with a mustache, green fedora, and panties that looked just like me caught my eye!
Funny encounter on AltspaceVR.
I was surprised when he approached me!
We compliment each other on our matching panties and they fit right in, agreeing to play basketball in a quiet place. I circled the first shot and he accidentally threw the ball at me. We ended up giggling.
After this brief but captivating moment, we said goodbye and parted ways, but it’s safe to say, he will always have a place in my heart. Also, and rather poetically, I didn’t even get the name!
Realizing that if I stayed on the perfectly healthy AltspaceVR, I’d be a meta version of the person who only uses Facebook to DM random people with the word “boobs”, I decided to go back to the more seedy way of VRChat.
With my confidence boosted from my brief encounter with the woman with the mustache, I felt ready to step up. Hi! If the toadstool man can get it, so can I!
My wallaby avatar.
I reopened the app and put on my Meta Quest 2 headset. This time, I didn’t hold back. I chose a wallaby avatar that just screams young, single and sociable.
I went straight into the “Time To Party” portal and was transferred to another apartment which was a bit rundown than before. And then I saw it: a ladder with the word “love” italicized in a giant pink heart. This is what I have been looking for!
I followed the steps down and found myself in another Portal called “Euro Club”. I’m standing in front of a prism-shaped building, and before I enter, I have to agree that I’m over 18, have an “optimized” avatar (my wallaby passed the exam), that I will follow the rules (I’m not sure about the rules, but whatever) and I’m not going to take photos during the dance.
Euro Club entrance on VRChat.
Here he is! Hesitantly I walked through the door and into a dimly lit room filled with leather sofas and podiums piled with avatars of all shapes and sizes dancing to what I can only describe as “sex music.” The green people, the little fairies, and the giant black mice all moved their bodies to the rhythm. It’s hard to imagine that these were all real people wearing headsets in their living rooms at three in the afternoon.
“Sorry, I know I broke, but what’s one thing you’d like to learn?” I said, leaning against the super hot guy in knight outfit and channeling my dating expert Hayley Quinn.
Before I even got my answer, he bent down and kissed my lips. “That,” he said confidently. My heart is pounding.
The kiss was awkward and messy but his giant metal knight hand caressed my face as he pulled away, there’s no doubt that he did what he wanted to do and didn’t just bump into my avatar by accident, which happened a lot too. I was flooded with feelings. Sure, no real contact is made in the real world, but in the metaverse, it’s quite real. A true success!
I released Meta Quest 2, reminiscent of a time years ago when we were so skeptical of online dating and how widespread it is now. I look at my wife, who seems to be laughing at the gesture I just made with my headset and controller.
It hurts me to think who might be sitting there eating pizza and laughing at me, if the two of us hadn’t tried dating apps all those years ago. Who said “we met in a digital basketball game” might be the new Hinge in just a few years? Although I think it’s safe to say that nothing good is going to happen at the Euro Club in the near future.